Sunday, 25 June 2017

care and maintenance

I made a flan for lunch today, and apart from that I spent the day tidying around the top lawns, and watering.  To deal with the flan first, it contained leek, goat cheese, and pulled ham, more trouble than heating up a supermarket one but nicer, and besides we have plenty of eggs.

In the back garden the edges need cutting.  In fact, they have needed cutting for weeks and to my chagrin have shot up to produce flowering heads of grass, which I thought I really had better cut down before they seeded into the borders.  In the borders I needed to chop down the spent flowering stems of the Camassia and the last few Aquilegia.  I'd had a couple of goes at those already but plenty of flower stems still remained.  The top spikes of many of the Aconitum had gone over leaving smaller side stems of flowers further down, so I took out the spent main spikes to improve the look of the remaining ones.  I removed the finished flowers of Cephalaria gigantea on the same basis.  I deadheaded the David Austin roses, though some show no signs currently of sending up fresh flowering growth and may not unless we get some proper rain or I give them a good soaking with the hose.

I pulled up horsetail, which again I started doing a month ago but did not have time to get right round the beds.  The regrowth in the areas I did before is much lower and less dense.  Horsetail appears impossible to eradicate though weeding or poison, but if you keep pulling it when you see it the plants get weaker, and will be hidden by ground cover if you go for something reasonably tall and bushy.  The big leaves of Brunnera macrophylla do a pretty good job.  Horsetail is not a strongly competitive weed and does not crowd out other occupants of the border, or at least not if they are chosen on the scale of Brunnera and the like, but it improves the look of the thing to pull it out.

There are patches of creeping thistle in both rose beds.  Where the surrounding planting is too dense to risk using glyphosate at this time of year I pulled the stems up, for the look of the thing and to try and weaken it.  Where I can safely get at the stems to spray them I'll do that next week. I sprayed the emerging growth in the spring, but creeping thistle is a tough beast that doesn't give up that easily.

The Strulch is doing a good job of keeping down most seed borne weeds.  I pulled out numerous tiny hollies, ivies, dogwoods and field maples, and noted the position of a useful yew seedling to be moved in the autumn.  There were a few strands of goose grass but not too much.

I cut off the long arms of the rambling roses that were yet again making a bid for freedom from the rose bank, leaving them in a trail along the middle of the lawn to be picked up later, along with any dead wood I noticed which was trimmed out as I went along.  The rose 'Mrs Oakley Fisher' is making a strong new stem from low down, and may yet win a reprieve if she will just keep doing that.

It is all very satisfying, seeing the borders emerge from the fuzz of rank edges and dead heads.  If I were not trying to do so many other things as well I would go round them more often than I do. This kind of routine maintenance is a major, and unsung, part of gardening, and essential to having a good garden.  Magazine articles tend to play up the planting associations, while advertisements for the DIY sheds would have you believe that the thing you need to do to rejuvenate your garden and ready it for summer is go and buy bedding, hanging baskets and barbecues.  In fact, far more than adding new plants at this time of year, making the most of what you already have by trimming and tweaking is key.

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