Over these last several weeks I’ve been doing mainly just one job: top dressing the borders. This is simply adding several inches of 50-50 compost and well rotted manure to the borders and around the plants (trying to bury as few as possible). There’s a few other details in there such as weeding and cleaning up the border edges.
The amount of compost and well rotted manure I’ve gone through is staggering, several tons of the stuff, all shovelled into the wheel barrow, carted around to the back and then decanted onto the borders, finishing off with a nice bit of sculpting with the rake to smooth out the wrinkles.
Doing the first border was nice, the second was OK but tiring, the third was getting very tedious and the last one was a real hard slog to finish. There aren’t many borders in the garden because the ones we have are large and generous, so my casual quip of, “I really should top-dress the borders this year as it’s been a while, it shouldn’t take long” turned into a significant winter/spring job. I’m glad it’s over; over for now.
Did I mention just how much material I got through?
While I’ve been working as a basic pack mule the weather turned hot, then turned to frost, then snow and has now turned hot again. The nights are still colder than they should be but they are at least hovering just above the right side of zero. I can see in the pictures of previous years that the ornamental cherry blossom was out – we’re at least two weeks away from that now.
The initial warm period coaxed many plants into leaf and flower, including the fruit trees and the magnolia – which normally flowers late. We had a few days of the magnolia in full glorious flower – the first time it has flowered like a mature magnolia, and then it got hit by frost, it then got hit by snow so there was no escape. The display was over, it now looks hideous with dead flowers still hanging from the tree. Its a good job other flowering plants have taken the attention.
Last year was all about the myriad small jobs, this year is about two big ones:
- Levelling the patio
- Making the final border
There’s been very little progress on each while I’ve been ticking off the maintenance jobs on my resurrected spreadsheet. However – just today in fact – I’ve ticked off almost all of the winter/Spring maintenance jobs and have start on “new for this year” items. To begin, I’ve prepared the greenhouse for a mass-sowing of seeds that are for the final border. After that, I might distract myself with a small job: to clean-up the corner of the garden by the shed. This area is lined with paths that I made last year, but I never did get around to clearing up the far corner. I estimate it’s a short excursion of a day or two with some good weather to make it ready for planting (something) later on in the season.
Other little jobs also included redoing the supports for the blackberry and Logan berry, the existing tree stakes that I had used as posts had gone rotten and were loose (despite being in the ground only for a year or two). I made a “proper job” of it this time and went heavy-duty, using fence spikes and fence posts. I’m hoping these should last longer. Ironically, for the cost of the materials, we could supply ourselves with blackberries from the supermarket for a lifetime.
In order to recoup some pots to be used for the seed sowing, I needed to plant out what was already in them and these were Stipa Tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass). I planted these at the base of the fence that runs along the pergola. I haven’t got a strong idea for what else to do there, but I didn’t want to create a formal border with edging etc. I want it to be rather informal for the moment where the lawn grass can run with the Stipa growing through it. I was also thinking of lavender but I know this area might get rather shady after the climbing plants grow over the top, though this will take several years so having something in the interim might be nice.
By the front door we took out the inherited box cube and replaced it with a Chamaecyparis. We noticed last season that the box had caught the dreaded box caterpillar and a large section of it towards the back was just eaten away. Rather than wait for the inevitable and perhaps ungraceful decline of the shrub, I was proactive and took it out. This created quite a bit of space and has opened the area up. It feels different now and we’re just waiting for the Chamaecyparis to become established and start growing away. In the meantime, a re-discovered clematis also growing in that area was treated to a new obelisk.
There’s been a few other tweaks where I’ve moved plants to new locations. I was reminded of the term, “editing the borders”, tweaking plants and their locations to fix problems or fill gaps. I’m very nervous when it comes to moving plants but this year, I’ve tried to be brave, taking comfort in the fact that it’s a problem solving exercise and for longer-term benefit.
It’s a nice co-incidence that the weather is now starting to warm up just as I switchover from maintenance to doing new things, it’s much more forward-looking. Unfortunately, the two main jobs I need to do involve moving a lot of material around, so the top dressing of the borders was just a practice run with the wheel barrow, compared to what I have to get my teeth stuck into this year.