The willow leaf bay Gherkin in the back garden is shaping up nicely, except that each time I think I've finished I see a few more tufty bits at the top when I step back from it. I can just reach the top with the pole lopper extended to its fullest extent, but it is practically impossible to see exactly where the jaws are positioned when I pull the string, so cutting the top of the Gherkin is hit and miss and extremely laborious. Every so often a small piece of bay falls down and tells me that I'd found the mark, but there are a lot of misses.
A fifteen foot pole weighted at the far end with a heavy duty lopper exerts a fair amount of leverage. As soon as it starts to dip from the vertical it wants to fall, and I alternated between working on the Gherkin and pruning the roses, to give my arms a break. A bright day is good for tidying up shrub roses, because the sun brings out the colour of the twigs. Those with a nice green sheen are alive, while the dark brown ones are dead. On a dull day they all look grey. The trick is always to work backwards from the tips until you find the point where the stem is still alive. It is much harder to tell which of the mature stems are dead, and disheartening to chop through what you think is dead wood at the base, only to find it had fresh young growth coming from it further up.
The normal pattern of growth on a shrub rose that's doing well is that it puts out strong, upright young stems every season from the base, while the older stems become more branched and more arched, until the tips and some of the side branches start to die. In the spring tidy up you want to remove all the dead wood, and a proportion of the oldest stems. I shorten some of the longest new stems if they are very tall or waving around too much, but in a more naturalistic setting than the edge of a flower bed I'd probably leave them.
Our Ginger appreciated the sun, and came into the back garden with me. It is nice to see him getting some fresh air and exercise. We have only seen Mr Cool twice all day, once when he came in for some lunch, and again when he came in for his tea.
Late in the afternoon the nurse called me. I'd been back to see her on Monday morning, because after four days of antibiotics I though my ear was no better at all. She had been polite, but slightly frosty about my returning quite so soon, saying that four days was not so long in the grand scheme of things. She did however take a swab from the wretched ear, and told me they would check which strain of infection it was, in case a different antibiotic was needed. She sounded distinctly less frosty when she rang me, and it transpired that the drops I'd been taking so far had not been helping because it was a fungal infection. Tomorrow morning I will pick up my new prescription and try again.