Enough of housework and personal grooming. Both are necessary for modern civilisation, but terribly dull. Since being taken for the day to a fairly posh spa some years ago I have considered pampering one of the greatest wastes of time imaginable, when one could be doing something so much more interesting than lying on a slab having a stranger prod at one's pores. Today with a feeling of joy and liberation I headed back into the garden, ancient red hat crammed down over the new curls because it was rather chilly first thing. I am relieved there has not actually been a frost, since while I remembered to shut the doors of the greenhouse and conservatory for the past couple of nights I completely forgot to put my garden club competition potato under cover. You will hear more of the potato in July when it is the great tuber unearthing and weigh-in at the competition organiser's house, but I am not at all confident. Really I have no idea what I am doing with this potato, only the anxious impression garnered from barely remembered gardening articles that if I feed it with the wrong thing it will make lots of impressive top growth but no more potatoes.
I decide to deal with the nettles behind the oil tank. It was not the obvious choice when there were lots of more front-line, visible tasks to be addressed, but I'd got some climbers planted in there and didn't want the nettles taking a firm hold, and I thought that if I rooted them out now I could use the last bags of Strulch on the area and keep it clean for the rest of the year. And I'd got some nice little Sarcococca confusa waiting to go in the space. Again, it might seem odd to stuff them away behind the tank where they will barely be visible, but I chose them for that spot for the scent. They will be quite close to the house, the chicken run and the path to the workshop, and I thought that drifts of their sweet, spicy smell on a winter's day would be welcome. And S. confusa makes a very, very dense canopy once it gets going, which should be a long term solution to the weeds.
The nettles were not yet flowering, so I chopped off their hairy stems to go on the compost heap, where they can add some useful greenery to what tends to be a rather brown heap, while saving space in the bags of roots destined for the tip. When I made it through to reveal the climbers their fortunes were mixed. Rambling rose 'Albertine' was really going for it, throwing up vigorous, thick new shoots. This is on its own roots and was given to me as a rooted cutting by a friend. It spent some time in its pot because I did not know where to put it, and barely existed, then I moved it into a bigger pot but it was still not happy, until I worked out that it could climb up a substantial and slightly tatty holly and planted it in the ground, where suddenly it perked up no end.
Around the corner from it rambling rose 'Blushing Lucy', bought from Trevor White, was also making growth although none of its new stems were as impressive as those of 'Albertine'. Lucy is intended to climb up a hawthorn and arch attractively out over the path to the bonfire, accompanied by Clematis x triternata 'Rubromarginata'. Taylors describe this as being the most scented clematis there is, growing in conditions that other clematis would not tolerate such as a spot at the base of a conifer that is very dry and does not see much sunlight, and I know from having seen them in bloom that the little, starry, four petalled pink and white flowers are very pretty, and they come at a useful time of year in late summer through to autumn. All in all it would have been an ideal choice except that mine was entirely brown and might be dead. I watered it anyway, in case the roots were still clinging on to life and it had the energy to reshoot. Clematis can be very good at reappearing from underground, but I am not overly optimistic. It didn't romp away last year as well as some of the others I planted at the same time, and I don't think it has got its roots down.
I fed everything with fish, blood and bone when I'd got the weeds out, and spread Strulch, and watered them all, and went on spreading Strulch in the corners I hadn't done yet in front of the oil tank, until I ran out of Strulch. I wish it would rain, otherwise the clematis is not going to be the last casualty by a long chalk. It is practically impossible to remember where everything is that's been planted in the past two years, and to get water to all of them.