Creating a shrubbery

I’m only calling this a shrubbery story because I just love that word. Shrub.

Late Medieval English scrybb. Not to be confused with the Arabic word shurb meaning a drink juice of orange or lemon plus sugar and spirit. Or if I’m guessing, sherbet.

I had to look that up of course. In for lunch and a much needed sit down. I had to stagger up as soon as I sat down to go over to the bookcase for my Shorter Oxford to check. It’s the two volume 1933 edition, so this sort of esoteric sort of stuff is easily discerned.

Then realized I was starving, so it was to the kitchen (stepping merrily on a few ants on the way) for a snack. I feasted on some lovely dumplings made by a friend at the market, Xiu Wei. Then I realized (first bite in) that the dumplings could do with mint and coriander to zing them up. So I then wandered out to pick herbs…. and so it goes.

I’m back now. Sated, and informed.

There are so many places on this mountain top that are starting to just make me heave a sigh of relief. This part works. That tree isn’t dead. That area is thriving. You know the thing.

We get so caught up in the bindweed (literally in my case, it’s such a trip hazard) and the dramas that need sorting, it takes courage to just pat oneself on the back and say ‘yep, pleased with that.’

From this:

To this:

Now not everyone yearns for a shrubbery. But I love an evergreen vista. And this is almost jungly. The chestnut trees are getting way too large and shading more than when I started. The soil is still absurdly poor. But the shrubs get on.  And after the best rainy spring in a decade, they were starting to get on a bit too well.

Those poor Santolina plants spend more time trying to grow towards the sunlight than looking pert and controlled.  Who has Santolina growing in a perfect mound of delight? Oh yes, people who plant it in full sun. Without any plant or shrub shading it out.

This one is shaded by three mirabelle trees on one side and a stonking chestnut on the other.

Looks great in March and April. In May it starts teetering.

June, boy does it need pruning. The weight of the flowers are just too heavy for the plant to hold shape.

Come back in summer when it recovers. Right now it looks like it has been hacked at like a greedy horse.

And speaking of greedy horses. Look what happens every time I take a load of prunings to the compost heap. Yep, a field of beasties come cantering towards me. That will teach me giving them apples.

I try to creep quietly to the heap, but Ulysse is very keen on his humans and often sets the others off with that particular whinny that screams ‘there she is, the apple lady!’

This has taken me two days of pruning. Let’s face it, every single plant here needed a proper haircut. A hacking back. It was getting so the shrubs were growing so well they were losing their definition. It was turning into an amorphous mass.

My aim for this shrubbery was to get the laurel and privet to the same height as the Euphorbia and Hemerocallis. To let the gorgeous iris foetodissima peep over the top.  And to have lilies dotted throughout that wouldn’t tower over the scene.

The lilies get munched too much to be pleasing. As do some of the shrubs.

But they have now reached peak height.

I have a small box ball hidden in this mass as a reminder of what size they ought to be.

I’m letting them grow a bit larger than that, but no taller.

It will take all the secateur work I can manage each spring to keep this shrubbery in shape. But a bit of high maintenance planting is worth it. Especially as I tend to leave this whole area alone all summer and autumn. And winter come to that.

Maybe it’s not such a high maintenance chore after all.