Preparing the borders: stage two

Stage two involves pulling out weeds, an essential but not massively joyful activity. Last year this took over a week, this year one (entire) day. I put this down to mulch – but also to earliness of the year; many weeds have not emerged yet. There were, however, many very huge nettles with roots that extended for metres in all directions. Quite satisfying to pull them out, even if it is with the realisation that you never quite get every last bit. The plants left behind seem to like having a little more room to spread out.

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Now the borders have been cleared I’m a bit nervous about the impact this weekend’s (forecasted) mini ice-age might have. Apparently we are due snow and minus 3 degrees for the next few days. Hopefully the border perennials will tough it out but I will move all the seedlings back into the house for the weekend.

Springwatch update: there’s blossom on the red plum at the top of the field – a reliable sign that spring is here, even if we do have a wintery weekend.

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Preparing the borders: stage one

I noticed that the long border perennials and grasses are beginning to put on some growth. This is amazing – seeing how they were covered in snow only 10 days ago. Time to commence preparing the borders. In the preparing the borders task there’s 4 stages; clearing, weeding, moving/planting and mulching. Clearing involves cutting and removing all of last year’s herbaceousness so that new growth can emerge. Last year’s clearing took more than 2 days – this year it was done in a morning.IMG_3735

Amazing what a difference good tools make; my new Felco secateurs are very good tools. Clearing isn’t over until all the clearings have been relocated to the compost heap. Last year this took a whole morning – this year it was done in about an hour. Amazing what a difference having a multi-purpose trolley makes. Very many thanks to our generous friends for the most excellent garden gifts – they make the less fun tasks a lot easier.IMG_3736

We planted some plants..

We’d been anticipating the hedgerow delivery for a while so when they drove into a ditch up the road during the snow it seemed almost too much.. Anyway, when the roads became passable on Monday they tried again, this time with success. On Monday afternoon we took ownership of 1275 plants, rabbit guards and canes. This is a lot of stuff. The plants seemed OK, having spent a week in the back of a van. We stood and looked at it all for a while – and then got going.IMG_3687

Luckily planting conditions were quite ideal; cool weather, damp – not waterlogged – soil and lots of unwavering determination. The first one in was a blackthorn. 1274 to go.IMG_3688

The process of planting is quite straightforward. We did a double row using a notch/slit planting method. This involves inserting a spade into the ground and then wiggling it backwards and forwards to create a gap in the soil. The plant is then dropped into the gap and then heeled in. Then a cane is pushed into the soil next to the plant. Finally a spiral rabbit guard is placed around both plant and cane.

By the time 100 of these were done my back started to wonder if we would ever get to the end. Doing this kind of project with Al is amazing; he is so focussed and calm and together we managed to methodically work through the tiredness. By the end of day one we completed about 300. Day two we both woke up feeling like we had done a massive workout (at least I think that’s what it would feel like.)  We worked through the stiffness and finished the whole of the longest section on the upper side of the field – about 700 plants. On day three Nick came to help and we worked through the occasional hailstorm to complete the hedgerow.IMG_3716

 

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On day four I planted another 150 trees in the field – these were mainly hazel but also rowan, oak, field maple and crab apple. So now there’s about 250 trees in the field – and it still looks empty!IMG_3705

We are massively pleased with our new hedgerow and trees. All the rabbit guards give a bit of a Christo look – but these will disintegrate over the next 5 years and the plants will take over. At certain times of day there’s even some charm in the way that the light catches the cellulose guards. Markers for the emergent trees to take their place in the world.IMG_3720

Iceday

The snow appears to have moved on to other parts of the UK, replaced by ice. The ice rain makes a layer on top of the snow, sealing everything below. It freezes onto the widows – instant obscured glass.

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Our kind neighbour helped out again, ploughing the snow from the driveway so we can at least make it out into the world. Kent has been transformed.

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The most recent forecast is for “less cold” over the weekend. Hopefully spring will start soon.

Snowday IV

The combined devilry of the ‘beast from the east’ and storm Emma have held temperatures below -5 overnight, blowing the snow into knee-deep drifts.

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All this snow doesn’t seem quite so exciting today. Maybe the novelty is wearing off. Certainly the grey skies and howling wind don’t help, but I didn’t want to be outside for very long. Even the pond is slowly being assimilated into the whiteness.IMG_3681

The summerhouse stands in high contrast to the white field.IMG_3682

And Tommy-all-alone is looking quite…alone.IMG_3683

We are snowbound; our car has been immobilised by the cold and the driveway is basically one big snowdrift.IMG_3676IMG_3680

Thankfully our very kind neighbour has offered to do some essential shopping for us. We have a big pile of logs and we’re going to use them.

Snowday III

Another blanket of snow last night – and an electric blanket in bed. I woke up at about 4am; deeply quiet outside, -7 degrees, fairly chilly. The new snow is more crystalline and in the morning sun puts a sparkle on everything it touches.

Now there’s a good covering of snow on the ground most of the smaller plants are covered, which makes the trees really stand out. Here’s the mulberry looking even more amazing than yesterday.IMG_0842

And this one shows the quantity of snow – we think it must be about 5 inches by now.IMG_0830.jpg

This one will make a great Christmas card.IMG_0383.jpg

Catalpa taking the strain.IMG_3652.jpg

This larch looks quite stately.IMG_3666.jpg

Delivery update: our driver ended up in a ditch (he’s OK) just up the road from us. We drove up to see if we could decant the plants but the pallet they’re on is too large and can’t be split for procedural reasons beyond my comprehension. Unfortunately the rescue party couldn’t make it down the hill either, so we are waiting for a reschedule. Hopefully the hedgerow plants will be OK in the back of a van somewhere until then. We wouldn’t have been able to plant anyway with all the snow and frozen ground, so things will probably work out for the best in the end..(to be continued)..

Snowday II

We woke up to find a real blanket of snow this morning. There’s a quietness to the snow, it seems to absorb most sound. And everybody has stayed home. The garden has been re-modelled – plants take on new forms where they poke through the snow.

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The underlying structure of the garden is laid out in stark white, a useful way of seeing how the individual areas work with the overall design.IMG_0774IMG_0773IMG_0764

The mulberry tree has caught snow in a fabulous way.IMG_0772

Out at the pond it started to snow quite heavily.IMG_0777

I thought I’d wait it out, but instead of slowing down it got heavier. I started back to the house following my earlier tracks that were quickly being covered by new snow. It seems a bit unlikely that our delivery will happen today..IMG_0779