By Heather Russell – from her garden in Bolam, Northumberland.
People often ask me how many hours a week I spend working in our large garden. I find it difficult to answer because it all depends… on the weather, the demands of the planting, impending visitors, and assorted commitments. ‘Quite a few hours’ is usually the rather vague answer, but I hasten to assure them that it is rarely begrudged. I enjoy being in my garden, for the fresh air, birdsong, the beauty of the plants and physical exercise, but there is one job that I don’t enjoy – that is staking the herbaceous planting. I know it needs to be done, so I just grit my teeth and reward myself with frequent breaks, and a long hot shower at the end of the day. And it takes several days to break the back of it – and mine in the process!
Although we are not opening the garden from now on (except for friends and Hardy Planters) I hate flattened and bedraggled plants, so I am reducing the number needing support. The aim is to address the issue of making life easier by small, incremental changes, hoping that over time they will make a difference. John is sceptical!
I am removing some of my large collection of clematis viticella, for one reason or another, thus reducing the work in May and June when precocious growth requires almost daily ‘twiddling’ – and all the rest. Look out for them on the Plant Stall.
Our new ‘woodsy’ area planted with ferns and shade lovers and covered in chunky wood chip has been a great hit with us and is a calm place to sit with morning coffee and listen to the birds. The appeal of the planting is not compromised by this approach, at least not for me.
An occasional raspberry attempts a return but the wood chip is laid thickly, is pleasant to walk on, and reflects light. It will require a top up in 3 or 4yrs, but is so easy to handle it should not be a problem.
I would be delighted to hear what measures other members are taking in order to reduce their workload.
John and I like to have jobs to get us outside in the winter, (but not in the lashing rain and howling winds as I write) so we don’t look forward to ‘putting the garden to bed’ as many presume we do. I am as happy as Larry – whoever he was – dressed in over-trousers, anorak and fur hat, cutting stuff back with my indispensable herbaceous knife.
Talking of which, I hope those who bought one on my recommendation last year have found it useful and appreciate how much easier it is to use than secateurs. To date no one has come to me complaining of a missing digit!