I spent today cutting the eleagnus hedge. What started as a welcome thickening after its severe reduction last autumn and the odd wispy shoot growing out into the drive was starting to get out of hand, to the point where visiting delivery van drivers were beginning to eye it up cautiously. And it was doing that infuriating thing that hedges made out of fairly lax plants do, and flopping out at the top. Cutting it has been on my list of things to do for some time, until post holiday and with the weather being cooler it bubbled up to the top.
The hedge is just coming into flower, and as it seems a shame to remove every bud and I don't want another winter staring at bare stems I am leaving it fairly shaggy rather than trying to clip it back to a billiard table finish. The theory is that it can have a second clip over in the spring, just as it's coming into growth. Even so I was worried before I started about how long it was going to take. Last year's big cut seemed to take up weeks of gardening time. I started before we went on holiday and as far as I can remember the job lasted the rest of September when we got back. Happily this time the job is going rather faster: I must have cut over half the side facing the drive, and shredded quite a lot of the prunings as I went along.
The point of shredding the debris is two-fold, so that I can add the trimmings to the compost heap, and so that they will not hang around the bonfire area for ages. Whole dried leaves of Eleagnus x ebbingei are astonishingly leathery, and seem to last for ever without rotting. Last year they all fell off the great pile of prunings before the Systems Administrator got around to burning them, and it was another job in itself gathering them up and disposing of them. Shredded and mixed in with other types of garden waste they disappear in a more reasonable timescale.
The problem comes with the smallest and sappiest growth, which tends to wrap itself around the insides of the shredder instead of chopping into neat bits. The trick is to feed an older and woodier stem through the shredder every so often, which sweeps the sappy bits along with it in its progress through the machine. This time the balance of soft regrowth and older wood was not quite right for optimum shredding, and I was left with a pile of twigs that wouldn't feed through the shredder. I snipped some up with secateurs as a last job to do while the light failed, but some may end up on the bonfire. Home made compost is good stuff, but there's a limit to how much time you can invest in making it.