The part timer’s lament
Count your blessings. Those of you lucky enough to be able to garden full time never forget what a privilege it is. And I don’t just mean being able to work full time; we’d all wish for that. But the actual being in a space every day. To potter, to tinker to rearrange. For the foreseeable future I am resigned to the fact I can only get at this garden for half the time I would like. Two weeks a month outside the long summer holidays. Which means that I charge in with lists and a determination to get on and a fear that I won’t get enough done.
Curse the protestant work ethic if you will, but it does mean we over achieve. And I do sometimes think that I have both my grandmothers in the garden with me: Dad’s mother, the amazing grower of roses who also had a garden at her holiday house; and Grandy the indomitable creator of the huge country garden at Werribon.
They wouldn’t shirk. They marched to the gardening list of tasks. They probably would lose secateurs with as much frequency as I do (usually found days later in the strawberry bed or buried deep in the wheelbarrow of prunings) so we are alike.
This morning I wanted to collect all the sticks that I had trimmed down from a tree cutting session on the lower terraces. I need chippings.
So first I had to drag the huge tarpaulin down from the forest where I was collecting sticks last month. But didn’t get round to finishing. Down it came and then I marched down to the lower terraces.
Huge tarp spread out, on with the sticks. I have a natty system of using bungee cords to tie up the huge cloth so the sticks don’t roll out the back when I haul them up.
So braced and ready off I go. But I only manage to drag it about 30 feet. It’s too heavy, too painful and my sciatic nerve thinks it’s a dumb idea.
So I have been defeated. And I’m cross. So much for the dragging, shredding and chipping of sticks.
Full of chagrin I picked up leaves for half an hour instead. They are lightweight and easy and, apart from the occasional chestnut burr hidden in the pile, pain free.
And instead of just looking at the next job on my list (finish clearing vegetable garden, prepare pool bank for eragrostis planting, strim lawn bank) I do something completely different.
When you walk up to my potting shed along a track you pass a sloping bank. It’s shaded by a huge chestnut tree which has the added excitement of shedding very large nuts and burrs every autumn, and is as dry as dry can be.
It always bothered me that I couldn’t think of a way to landscape it. Oh, yes and it also has the clothes line right at the top of the bank so you can’t have plants that get crushed.
And being a part timer, I never managed to do anything for the first four years of trudging past it six times a day.
I had hoped that all the santolina cuttings that I am taking will do a nicely mounded trick. But the plants haven’t taken yet so I can’t count on a good enough supply. And the bank I need to landscape is very long. I haven’t measured it, but I think it’s ten metres in length at least. And about three metres wide at the largest point.
So I have struck upon a very cheap and easy (ish) solution. Plant what grows there already. And for me that means festuca grasses. Our weeds. Their blue shape is much prized among the ornamental grass growing fans, and we have them by the shed load. But they are just a bit patchy.
So with Artur looking on (there are hunters in the forest and he likes to cling a bit when he hears the distant baying of hounds) I started to weed. It’s a steep bank so I couldn’t excavate as much as one would like. But there are slopes for pockets of the grasses. And I have decided to put some of my transplanted euphorbias here as well. It will be a green bank. Not much colour. But with all the soil dug over I can sneak some bulbs in here later if I think it will work.
So I have uprooted lots of festucas which are hanging about the rocks and banks above this slope and planted them in pockets of dry as dust soil.
The best bit is you can’t tell what on earth I have done. It doesn’t look that much different. Just more grasses and less bare earth.
Naturally I have only done about a fifth of the entire area. But if it works, I guess I will go on. Naturally the entire area also needs mulching. But that brings me back full circle to where I started out. I need to chip the sticks to make the mulch.
Any chance of staff?