The Grace Period

It’s mid-February and I still have a list of garden jobs as long as my arm to do before the spring arrives. I’m in a state of shock that despite the winter months, which are supposed to be a “rest” period, there’s actually quite a lot to get on with and I haven’t managed to work through it all yet. Some jobs are quick and simple, like pruning the roses and getting some small beds ready. Other jobs require serious muscle power, such as lowering the height of the hedge (re-forming it) and mulching the borders.

The best Valentine’s Day present a guy could ask for

Despite the urgent work, I’m currently sheltering indoors, out of the howling wind and driving rain, while five bulk bags of material sit on the drive, with another two yet to come. All this compost and manure is for the mulching and is the third order of material I’ve done this winter, yet I’m only about half-way through the mulching work. I can see a wave of mulch creeping its way over the borders but it’s currently paused due to the horrid weather. I need to keep chipping away at this gradually, wheelbarrow load by wheelbarrow load the borders will gradually be topped up by several inches of organic matter that will help improve the heavy clay soil we have. I’ve not started on the pruning but the roses are already coming into leaf, I think I still have a bit more time before I have to sort them out, I’ve only just fixed the secateurs. At least the hedge is now lowered, though the sides need a trim, this shouldn’t take too much time, especially with the lovely new hedge trimmer that we treated ourselves to at Christmas.

Mulch creeping across the borders – slowly

Lowering the beech hedge has taken a fair amount of time, cutting it hard so that the top can re-form at a lower height that is more manageable. It will make subsequent years of maintenance easier and the hedge is now more of a polite garden separator as opposed to a towering wall between the us and the neighbours. Needless to say, the material taken off the hedge had to go somewhere and so there’s a new pile of beech tops that has appeared in the garden. It’s typical that as soon as one area is cleared, it’s quickly filled up again. I’ll have to work through this new pile, some of the wood is very decorative and may be kept, like the branches I have sitting in another pile elsewhere.

A lovely new pile of rubbish to work through

I did manage to prune the summer fruiting raspberries while I was weeding and tidying Fruit Avenue. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about the pruning so either I’ve done it correctly, or we’ll have no raspberries at all this year, other than those from the supermarket. In other parts of the garden, the Clematis are all showing green shoots and non of them have been pruned. As I have a mix of group 2 and group 3 Clematis dotted about and I don’t know which is which, I might just have to employ the “cut it to around waist height and hope” method.

A much-lowered hedge for easier maintenance

February is a strange month when it’s supposed to be the coldest part of winter, yet the days are noticeably longer. Sunny days can even be warm but the birdbath can still start off frozen solid after a clear night. The month feels like a limbo between the darkness of winter and the excitement of spring. It’s several weeks of grace to catch up with and finish all those winter jobs so that one is ready for the new gardening season.

The roses won’t wait for my pruning.

Unfortunately I’m going to need much more time and some decent weather to get to the end of my winter To-do list, but it will be a disaster if I don’t finish as the same thing happened last year and the garden wasn’t any worse for it.

6 Comments


  1. Ah don’t beat yourself up, Sunil. I too have the roses to prune, but worst of all, I have 70 tulip bulbs NOT YET PLANTED! Well…. not going to get much of a show this year, am I? I will put them in shortly, and hope for terrific things next year. Beech Cuttings? do you know of a florist? because you could store them upright after stripping the leaves, and in autumn spray them white and sell them to the florist (bit of lateral thinking there!!) It has been v. cold for Dorset here. I have lit the woodburner nearly every day for a month or so (the c. heating does not come on in the day and the house stays warm enough normally), but a bit of luxury does not come amiss and I have sat on the sofa and read plenty books. It will soon be warmer, and then I am out there, weeding and pruning (and planting) for a good show this year. Don’t do too much yet. This cold and the garden stays a bit “sleepy”!

    Reply

    1. Hello Mrs Mac, those tulip bulbs must be getting very desperate! I was very tempted to buy stupendous numbers of bulbs last autumn but I’m glad I didn’t because I’m sure they’d be still waiting to be planted. You sound very comfy and snug with the woodburner, sofa and books. Over this way, I’ve been outside trying to get the borders mulched before spring gets underway. I also need to get the hedges trimmed before the birds start nesting. The weather has been good recently so I’ve been able to make progress. I wonder if I’ll be able to get ahead of things and perhaps sit back a bit later on in the year..? One can hope.

      Reply

  2. It’s been really warm here and I hate it and love it. At least it’s helping me get more plants rescued from my last garden. What are you going to do with all those beech tops?

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    1. Hi Tammy, it’s about to get cold here, just as the Camellias are starting to open. For those beech tops, I think we’ll keep the more decorative ones but we have far too many to keep all of them so we’ll probably burn the rest and add the ash to the compost heap – you know, my brand new compost heap made only last year, it’s the one with the plastic spinning windmills!

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  3. Good luck Sunil. When you start listing all the jobs it seems endless but, tackling one at a time I am sure you will manage.

    Reply

    1. Thanks, Alain, I find it very easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of “stuff” that needs doing, the only way to tackle it is to break it down into manageable pieces and prioritise. At the moment though, the mind is willing but the body is weak as I’ve come down with a cold so I’m on enforced reset.

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