The Eleagnus hedge has been encroaching where it was not wanted again, this time across the path from the front garden to the terrace (or patio). I nibble away at the end of the hedge every now and again, but never quite enough, while the top of it has arched over to make a tunnel against the house. The tunnel is rather fun, except when the gales make the hedge thrash about and scrape the wood stain off the cedar clad upper storey. I had a good go at the arching over bits only a couple of months ago with the pole lopper and had got them clear of the wood cladding, except that of course by now the hedge has grown again. However, the passageway at the bottom had got awfully narrow. Things came to a head when I knocked an iron stake into the corner of the flower bed along the wall of the house so that I could run the hose around the corner without it digging into a box ball and squashing the winter flowering iris, and the Systems Administrator pointed out to me that as he already had to cut through the border to avoid the hedge, with the stake there he could only go round the corner himself bent at a very odd angle to keep his knees clear of the stake and his shoulders clear of the hedge.
That is the trouble with entrusting the heavy maintenance to a small person. Any route I make between or underneath branches tends to be practically hobbit sized. The SA is fully eight inches taller than I am, with much broader shoulders, and gaps that I can happily toddle through, foliage just skimming the top of my Tilley hat, leave the SA bent double. I promised to cut the end of the hedge back properly, and the SA magnanimously agreed that the stake could stay and he would get used to it. As the weather hots up and the number of pots at the end of the house increases it is jolly useful having a hose guide.
After lunch I thought I had better stick to my side of the bargain and do something about the hedge. The problem was that several large branches had sagged over time until they stuck out half way across the path at about the height of the SA's shoulders, and there was nothing to be done but take a deep breath and saw them off. The end result wasn't as bad as I'd feared, with only one large bald patch, and I managed to salvage some young whippy shoots with leaves that could be pushed up inside the end of the hedge instead of cutting them off. I expect it will regenerate. It has so far, but cutting hard into two decades old Eleagnus x ebbingei is nerve wracking. Do not plant it as a hedge. Choose hornbeam, or yew.
The finished path was much better, though, and I flagged down the SA when he was passing and made him walk through it to try it for size. The SA said it was fine, and I took off a few more branches at shoulder height for good measure. Come the autumn when we cut down the long grass on the daffodil lawn I am going to have to take the back of the hedge back, as it is bulging out across the lawn and shading the terrace (or patio). Then we will have to look at the butchered remains from the sitting room window for months.