Bramble taming

Quick. While this is still fresh and my right hand doesn’t seize up from all the toil.

I was going to do a bit more about dried flowers. But frankly I think we have all had a surfeit.

Back today to the more mundane job of actual landscaping.

I feel as if I am about to move into a more creative mode in the garden that actually involves the garden. Not the potager or the potting shed or the delicate gentle stuff that looks pretty and requires little work.

Today. I give you this.

The infamous Nid de Bourdigas.

Pause while I go and get the Ardeche Dictionary and check on the spelling. A variation of the word boustrigas. And everyone round here knows that it means a bramble patch.

Would we call it a Briar Patch in other parts of the world?

I must investigate.

But right now have some rather scruffy pictures.

That is not so much a patch as an infestation.

Yesterday I was mowing the first terrace below the house. And it’s a marvel. All smooth and tamed and tidy. And a great reminder of the mess it used to be.

And utterly pointless. Why on earth do we have expanses of gorgeous lawn? This one delights me. But also gives me concern. It should of course be cropped by sheep or goats. That was its original purpose. Not cropped by a lawnmower using petrol.

But we have to do it to keep down the self seeding tree seedlings that crop up everywhere, and of course the brambles.

When I stand out on my marvellous deck from this office I can see the bramble patch way at the end of the property. Creeping its way merrily down the mountain and over the wooden structure you may no longer be able to see.

It doesn’t actually look that bad from here. But a dead cherry was cut down in front of it way back in May. And I doubt I have been down there for any reason since.

Apart from mowing. And looking for random bits of wood stocked in the rabbit shed.

Yes. A clapier a lapin. And grotty it was too. It still is if you stand still long enough to get creeped out.

Next month I have plans for this part of the garden.

Or as I ominously announce to myself when walking ‘I Have Plans’.

And that involves planting more decorative trees and shrubs. And that means hunting out parts of the farm where moisture actually accumulates from underground springs and occasional biblical storms.

Moist but well-drained soil? We always have-well drained soil. But moist is much harder to find.

And where to look? At the base of walls. The base of slopes. The forgotten corners where brambles grow.

And seeing how rampant the brambles grow here, I knew I had a patch where I could work.

But first. Or course. It needed clearing.

And oh boy. Somewhere under here is a wire fence.

And I don’t even recall that elderflower tree growing there. So that must have been when I was not paying attention to the mess.

The weight of the brambles snapped the trunk. And yes I can see the fence is growing through the tree at the base.

So that needs a more powerful tool for another day.

We do not need more elderflowers on this farm. They are another self-seeding weed.

The Nid de Bourdigas was a sort of memento of what the whole first terrace resembled when we moved here 15 years ago. A reminder that if we do nothing on this mountain top, then the brambles will win and you wouldn’t see there was a huge garden here at all. Or rock walls and terraces and trees. Or probably houses given a good bit of neglect and a few damp winters.

It also acts as a vegetative crash barrier of sorts when our elderly neighbour loses traction on the curve and slides ignominiously down the hill in a snow storm in his car.

It has been done before.

But it really was a bramble patch officially termed out of control.

So with my favourite batterie de cuisine at hand – small secateurs, small blade for the softer bits, an ear of entertainment (talking book) and ear muffs so I could actually listen to my crime novel while slashing away…

I attacked.

And hacked and chopped.

And wearing my favourite gauntlets I even waded in and wasn’t fearful of bramble damage. (A few weeks after all the chestnut burr damage has finally healed.)

I had some sport when I grabbed hold of an excellent thick bramble and just pulled.

Marvellous. Almost as much fun as pulling up nettle roots except this is way more exercise. Especially as you lurch back down the slope with a ten foot long branch in your hand hoping the weight of vegetation coming out of the tangled mess above will slow your momentum.

I didn’t trip. Just minor lacerations. And landscape-by-hand aches. And deep satisfaction.


Here is the damage / progress I can observe the morning after. (Works supervisor. She was thrilled.)

Progress! And all that chopped bramble and vegetation is going to make an excellent mulch for a future project.

First I need to finish the job and rake it into a semblance of ‘I know what I’m doing, trust me’. This is going to be great.’