Eventually I managed to get the top of the bay Gherkin trimmed to my satisfaction. Then I pruned the orange stemmed lime, which is in the process of being trained into a freestanding pleached something-or-other, although I have not decided precisely what yet. I liked the idea of a proper hedge on stilts, or better still a lime walk, but there was not room anywhere, yet the orange twigs were so pretty I could not resist. And the rose bed needed more winter interest. Lime wood is almost as soft as butter when you prune it. I can see why it was the material of choice for Grinling Gibbons.
Then, as the sap is rising and the buds swelling by the day now the weather has warmed up, I got on with cutting the hornbeam hedge by the compost heaps. It has been on the list of things to do since last August, the traditional time for cutting hornbeam. As previously discussed, I can't think of any actual reason why you shouldn't prune it during the winter, and eventually decided that August had become traditional because it was an otherwise quiet time in the Edwardian Arts and Craft garden, and so custom decreed the gardeners spend it tidying the yards of hedging which would then look crisp through the winter months. I have remembered to feed the hornbeam hedge a couple of times in recent years, and it is growing much better than it used to, though I can't square its habit of throwing strong vertical growths from the top so thick I need the pruning saw to cut them with my memories of snipping at a hornbeam hedge with shears during a practical class at Writtle.
Before starting on the pruning I pulled up weeds in the front garden until I had enough to fill the council's brown bin, since it is emptied tomorrow. It seems slightly back to front to decide what you are going to do in the garden according to what debris it generates, but it would be a shame to waste any capacity in the brown bin. And the weeding does need doing, so making sure I collect at least a brown bin's worth of non-compostable rubbish every fortnight helps keep the momentum going. When I say non-compostable of course I mean the sort of things I do not want in the compost bins at home. Veolia will compost them, and with any luck at a temperature that does manage to kill all the weeds and disease spores, but their heaps will be truly massive. I always enjoy looking at professional compost heaps, when I get the chance.
Addendum We watched Michael Portillo's train journeys in Ukraine yesterday evening. I find him an agreeable guide: he is no Colin Thubron, but radiates such apparent enthusiasm for trains and the places he visits. Last night Lviv was on the itinerary, along with Kiev and Odessa. I thought about this and asked the Systems Administrator if Lviv had not been annexed from Poland at the end of the last war. The SA thought about it and said No, I was confusing it with Lvov, but I was not convinced and looked it up afterwards on Wikipedia. The two names refer to the same place in Ukrainian and Russian respectively, as does Lwow if you are Polish and Lemberg if German. At the end of WW2 the geography of Poland shifted to the west, as Stalin hung on to parts of the east, while former Prussian territories on the western border were transferred to Poland by way of compensation and to cut post-war Germany down to size. It resulted in a massive transfer of population, as ethnic Poles, Germans and Ukrainians were forced to relocate to within the new borders of their countries. I recently read a fascinating book by Norman Davies describing the Polonisation of Breslau as it found itself in Poland after the war, rechristened Wroclaw. TV travel presented as light entertainment can be awfully misleading. Michael Portillo commented that the architecture of Lviv was straight out of the Habsburg Empire and the churches were Catholic and not Orthodox, but apart from that all the Ukrainians he spoke to were desperate to stress their Cossack heritage, and that they were not Russians. According to Wikipedia, Lviv was part of the Kingdom of Poland from the late middle ages until annexed by the Habsburgs in the eighteenth century, then reverted to Poland in the twentieth century between the wars, and up until the breakdown of the former Soviet Union had only ever been briefly part of Ukraine in 1918. I suppose that is one reason why everybody Michael Portillo spoke to was so keen to emphasise their Cossack and Ukrainian heritage, just as in Wroclaw the emphasis after WW2 was on the medieval Polish past, glossing over the subsequent centuries of German rule, but you would not have guessed this convoluted history from the TV programme.