Thursday, 9 March 2017

job finally done

I put a fresh straw bale into the chicken's run before letting them out of their house.  With the rain of recent days the soil had suddenly churned, and it can't be very nice for them sliding around in the mud all day, besides which their feet then make the eggs dirty.  We are getting to the end of our supply of small bales, and one of the loops of baler twine had broken on this one, making it difficult to lift into the wheelbarrow without it entirely disintegrating.  I managed by dint of standing the bale on end and leaning it against my shoulder while I trundled it round to the hen run. The Systems Administrator looked at me doubtfully as I reappeared in the kitchen for breakfast and said You've got grass on you.

I only bothered breaking the bale down into rough chunks, leaving the chickens to do the rest of the work, and by lunchtime they had spread it over most of the run and looked quite happy bouncing up and down on it.  They would really like to come out, but they can't.

In the afternoon I finally finished trimming the hornbeam hedge, a job which has been on my list of things to do since last August.  This year I must try and do it in August, or at least before we go on holiday.  Last year it got a top-dressing of home made compost as I spread the remains of the great neolithic compost burial mound around the utility area, and some fish, blood and bone, and that cheered it up a lot.  It thickened somewhat, but still keeps sending up strong vertical shoots from the top instead of growing all over with nice little shoots that I could snip with shears, rather than needing secateurs if not a pruning saw.  I don't know what I have to do to it to make it behave more like a Tom Stuart-Smith designed hedge and less like a temporarily thwarted row of incipient trees.

I still haven't got to the origin of the theory that hornbeam should be cut in August.  It is not at all tender and I don't see why you shouldn't do it at any point during the winter.  I read somewhere recently that it shouldn't be done in the spring because it can bleed, but I have cut mine several times in spring in complete ignorance of this theory and never noticed any signs of bleeding.  I'm left holding to my own pet theory that August became the traditional hedge cutting period in the heyday of the grand Edwardian garden because at that time of year there weren't all that many other jobs for the garden staff to be getting on with, and that the idea of the August cut for hornbeam and yew persisted into books and articles aimed at the amateur owner-gardener.  Yew is as tough as old boots, and from my own practical experience you can trim it with impunity at pretty much any time you fancy.  If it looks whiskery and is annoying you then by all means give it a haircut, it doesn't seem to mind.

Our topiary yews are a he and a she.  I did not know this when I bought them as little knee high plants, but as they grew the one to the south turned out to bear berries, though not many due to all the clipping.  The other is a male plant.  Yew flowers are not showy, but on a windy day you may see absolute clouds of pollen blowing off the plant.  Ours was in full flower a few weeks back, releasing clouds as thick as dust blowing off a ploughed field in response to a couple of especially brisk gusts of wind.

I would very much like a yellow berried yew, ever since seeing one in a great garden open to visitors.  I can no longer remember which garden, but alas, they did not offer yellowed fruited yew in their plant sales area, and I have never been able to track down a supplier.  It irritated me rather when one of the magazines recently included it in their list of ten plants with ornamental fruit for winter, given none of their readers were likely to be able to get one.

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