……….. yes it really does. Whether its at 88 or in St V it is enormously satisfying, productive and sane. I rarely know exactly what I am going to get stuck into when I don suitable footwear and find my gardening gloves. I assemble my picnic basket of tools, tags and cut-up tights which make brilliant plant ties, and my trusty kneeler. Currently the task ahead is multi-stranded.
Before he left for France Nick felled the Cupressus in front of the house. It has long outstayed its welcome and has made the rooms at the front progressively darker as it has grown. Felling, along with sawing, pruning, shearing, mowing is very much Nick’s bag.
Just about everything needs attention. Borders need to be weeded with spent plants like Myosotis (which looks lovely for the first couple of weeks with spring bulbs) being pulled. All the Aquilegia heads need to be cut before they seed. We already have hundreds. Then the magenta Centaurea and the red oriental poppy flowerheads need to be removed.
Poking in around the two borders on the lawn level produces seedling Helleborus and I find that the Eucomis with reddish tinged foliage, planted underneath the Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’ when it was a treelet, has quietly multiplied but probably now needs more light to flower. The bulbs are divided and potted up ready for replanting, some in St V, others in Dorset and some to give away.
The Hemerocallis which was sited on a sunny corner when Andy was planting up the garden is now massive and needs to be lifted and divided. This is not an ideal time to do the deed – it probably won’t flower this year. But as we haven’t seen flowers on it the past 3 or 4 summers, because the deer eat the buds before they open, it’s not a great loss.
The deer have been wretches when it comes to feeding in our garden. Just the tasty tips of many of the plants we have. As I’ve got some gaps to fill I ask for the leaflet that Secretts Garden Centre has compiled which lists plants for which, evidence suggests, deer do not have a preference.
When it comes to planting the Ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithen Blue’ in the newly created bit of border behind the pediment of the terraces, I’m taking no chances. By way of preparation I have lifted the turf and used it to patch worn bits of lawn. This newly dug area connects the two semi-circular beds along the south border of the lawn, and closes off easy access to the wall at the top of the waterfall which descends to the pond.
Ceanothus is not on the magic list, although I’ve noticed that another variety of this plant which we have has not been browsed. All the same, I construct a circular barricade out of bent and straight canes. If I can just prevent the deer sticking their muzzles close enough to nibble whilst the shrub establishes, it will then have to fight for survival.
The other bed that needed an overhaul is the narrow raised bed immediately to the right of the left-hand flight of steps to the wood. Anemone japonica has run rampant along this bed, smothering the Eucomis and restricting expansion of the Echinops. This bed is thoroughly weeded. Lots of Gladiolus bulbs are discovered along the back where they were planted by Andy and have quietly multiplied in intervening years. I leave only a few, because in due course the deer will surely have the flower stems, and pot the rest in clumps to move to other locations. I also rescue a wild strawberry bed from near strangulation.
I have now worked my way to the bottom of the steps which lead to our woodland. This is for another day.