Wednesday, 26 July 2017

a decision

This morning, as I headed off to the railway gravel to plant out some more of the stash of plants in pots by the greenhouse, an idea struck me with great clarity, and I realized that I should remove the large semi prostrate juniper at the end of the dahlia bed.  It is a specimen of Juniperus x pfizeriana 'Pfitzeriana Aurea', a name that does not exactly trip off the tongue, and was planted nearly twenty years ago, since when it has overwhelmed two other, lesser prostrate junipers, and changed its name from the slightly more manageable Juniperus x media.

You would probably recognize it if you saw one, even though you might not know its name, for it is a classic landscaping plant of the 1970s, and none the worse for that.  Willing to live in miserable soil, or shade, and gently spreading to fill odd shaped gaps or corners with a weed proof, impenetrable, evergreen cover, it used to be one of the plants that landscape architects reached for when they had an awkward space to fill.  It will tolerate regular trimming, but woe betide you if you cut hard into old wood behind the current growth.  It will not reshoot, and you will be left looking at the stumps.

My regular trimming has not been regular enough, so that after two decades the juniper has spread to occupy the end of the dahlia bed and almost a car's length of parking on the drive, as well as creeping nearly mid way across the concrete so blocking half of the overflow parking area, and has advanced towards the long bed until there is only a pinched, eighteen inch path left between them.  I have been fiddling around trying to reduce it to improve access to the concrete and the railway, but the real solution is to chop it all out.  Suddenly we would regain a space as large as some small front gardens.

Most of it would not be space for new planting, just parking, but it would still be welcome, and I would want to put something in its place to mark the end of the dahlia bed.  For a few hours I toyed with the idea of a dwarf pine, not too tiny or slow growing but that wouldn't get too large.  I love pines, and all those we've tried so far have done extremely well in the sand.  A form of the native Pinus sylvestris whose new growth emerged pale yellow, perhaps, or a dark, gnarled pine like the ones seen in some recent Chelsea gardens.  But neither of these felt right, and my budget would not stretch to the sort of pines seen at Chelsea, and how long would I have to wait for one to reach that size?  No, the answer, it turned out, was another yew, to echo the two topiary domes topped with cake stands in the long bed.  I would not make another cake stand, but perhaps a spiral, or a sort of Cleopatra's needle obelisk.

Yew is by no means instant, but it will make getting on for eighteen inches annual growth when young if fed and watered, and it likes good drainage.  In damp ground it is vulnerable to phytophthora, but in sand it is pretty bullet proof.  There is not, so far and touching wood, a yew blight to go with box blight.

I ran the idea past the Systems Administrator, who turned out to be delighted at the prospect of the juniper going, so pleased in fact that I thought the SA could always have asked before.  I suppose it is part of our modus vivendi that my plants are allowed to do their thing without criticism in case I should dearly love them, the main exception being when they block the signal to the Sky dish.

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