13 Apr 2013

Hort Couture

Looks like it's going to be a good weekend for being outdoors, but I've already been making the most of the dry but cold weather of recent weeks to start the process of reclaiming another of the long walled borders.  For the ten years that I've lived here, this border has become increasingly overgrown without any annual maintenance with the result that it had begun to take over the adjacent path.

Border to clear

Two summers ago the Hebe at the far end was covered with pink blossom and hundreds of bees busily gathering nectar.  Everywhere I looked, busy, busy bees.  Last year there was no blossom and no bees.  The shrub seemed tired and neglected; lots of spindly twiggy branches under a very shallow but dense canopy of leaves - and sitting in a bed increasingly filled with plastic rubbish.  It was time for some drastic action, especially while the weather remained cold and before any spring growth appeared.
So over the Easter weekend (and spurred into action by my visit to Great Dixter), I wrapped up against the Siberian winds and popped down to the garden with my pruning saw, secateurs and lots of green waste bags.  I meant to just make a start but quickly realised how silly it would look to stop half way along.  One important point of gardening in a community area is to be aware of the visual impact of your work and not abandon projects half way through.  People may not want to get stuck in themselves, but they'll soon say something if a mess is left behind!

Seeing daylight

I hadn't planned on giving over half of my Easter weekend, but that's what was needed.  Once I'd starting pruning, I found two Hebe bushes (over 8 feet tall), a Cotoneaster, an Eleagnus, a Choisya ternata, several varieties of Cornus with stems 15 to 20 feet long with honeysuckle and ivy tightly binding the various shrubs together.  The bare branches underneath were rather beautiful so I just took away the side growth, and dead or crossing wood from the interior, leaving the top canopy to provide some summer shade, and shelter for birds. (Next winter will be soon enough for further work on these shrubs.)

My very good friend Leigh brought regular cups of tea and came as soon as she could to help me trim and bag up the green waste on day two - over 20 large bags went to be recycled! (Plus several carrier bags of plastic bottles, food wrappers, a shoe, a couple of socks, some toys and an old milk bottle - how long had that been there?!)

We were kept company throughout both days by this little chap ...

Robin on branch

... who took a great interest in the proceedings, and was duly rewarded with mealworms and other tasty bird treats once the rubbish was cleared.

Robin supervising

This was the view down to my little veg patch after final bags of woody branches and cornus stems had been disposed of - although I rather regret that last act of clearance as Lorna at The Green Lady has been writing of making hurdles and wreaths out of willow and cornus stems.  I feel I've missed an opportunity to create some lovely natural fences in the veg garden!  (If you fancy having a go, be aware that both willow and cornus stems will root very easily so should only be used for weaving the horizontals.)

Shady border
~ That's better! ~
The photo below is one I took in 2011 as I stood and watched the bees busily at work on the Hebe. If I've done the work properly I very much hope to see this scene again with plenty of food provided for visiting bees along with the other nectar rich flowers and herbs that will be growing in the veg garden by the beginning of summer.

Hebe bees


16 comments:

  1. I went on a willow weaving course at my local college a few years ago - very satisfying. You can use willow/cornus for whole structures if it's been left for a while. I love making a few bits and bob with my spring cutback.

    I'm impressed with your activities - fingers crossed the hebe blooms for you this year. xxx

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    1. Thanks VP, It's amazing what gets done when you set your mind to it! I'll have to remember your tip about cornus stems for the next pruning session and bundle up the useful bits to store somewhere! I did basket weaving years and years ago but I think the basic principles have stuck in my memory; I'd love also to do some willow weaving as I've seen some beautiful structures made from willow. xx

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  2. That must have been VERY hard work, but it looks as if it was probably worth it. Your post reminds me that it is about time for my hedge to have its annual trim. If only I could remember who I employed to do it last year... (I'm not up to that amount of physical effort myself!). BTW The first photo of the robin is superb!

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    1. Thank you Mark. The robin photo was chosen from many that I was able to take as he seemed quite happy to have me nearby with my camera. It's the first I've been able to get so clearly so, naturally, I'm very pleased with the photo! And yes, all that hedge trimming was exhausting but very satisfying! :)

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  3. It sounds like a very busy weekend. I'm sure the hebe will be thankful for a good prune and will be invigorated. What a great photo of the robin, they're such friendly little birds.

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    1. The whole project was more time consuming than I had expected - as with everything to do with gardening, it seems! I can only hope that you're right - it certainly seems to have worked for the Lemon Verbena on my balcony! Robins are indeed very good company and well worth rewarding.

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  4. Amazing what gets found when you cut a few bushes back! Nobody passes our house.but we still find crisp wrappers, KFC cartons, plastic bags etc, makes you wonder what else is blowing about in the wind! I keep meaning to make something with my cornus trimmings when I cut them back each year but never seem to get round to it. I too went on a willow weaving course a few years ago and made a basket, not too bad, could be a bit tighter though. I'm sure your shrubs will recover from their haircut, you certainly got a lot of work done.

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    1. Oh it's hideous what lurks in a public border! If only crisp packets were the worse thing to be found and I do wonder at the mentality of people that chuck their rubbish away like this (especially as it would be just as easy to put their rubbish in an adjacent dustbin!). I know what you mean about not getting around to making things - I have realised, somewhat belatedly, that I simply haven't got the time to do it all!

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  5. Looking good Caro! I've just started renovating a border in my garden, that also contained a much overgrown and unattractive hebe. The results you've shown have here will spur me on to finish it - especially as we seem to have the weather for it!

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    1. Absolutely! The extended winter cold has been perfect for tidying the garden before the big sowing onslaught begins and this Hebe was really beginning to annoy me! It's hard work but worth it!

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  6. Well done on doing all that. It should look good in the summer.
    Milk is still sold in bottles so the one you found may not have been there as long as you think.
    That's a terrific robin picture. It's so good when they keep us company isn't it. Don't tell anyone but I always talk to mine. Flighty xx

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    1. Ah, interesting about the milk bottle ... I haven't seen a milk float for years! I was very pleased to get a close up photo of my little bird friend - he was with me for hours and a very curious little fellow! They do make excellent company, and the conversation was good! I chatted and he sang - for hours! Lucky me! xx

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  7. What an improvement - I was reading about lifting the crown of shrubs with interesting branches just the other day. As for the dogwood, the beauty is that you will be able to use next year's prunings for that. Something I am looking forward to doing from cuttings from my own garden in the future, though it is hard to imagine at the moment given that the dogwoods all currently stand less than 20cm tall...

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    1. Thank you Janet and yes, I also have a mini-dogwood, bought before I realised that there were many cornus stems lurking in the that border! Mine looks very sweet at the moment, hard to believe they can get so big and woody! The present cornus plants really need to be replanted as they're back of border behind evergreen shrubs! I'm thinking that someone didn't research properly before planting up this border!!

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  8. My, you've been busy! I had a robin hopping around me as I was digging last week. I didn't get a great pic like yours though!

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    1. Better luck next time, Mark! They do love to hang around for the prospect of a few tasty morsels to eat, don't they!

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