Much of the west lawn is surrounded by an old, high beech hedge. Whoever planted it should really have planted hornbeam* as, like beech, a clipped hornbeam hedge holds its leaves over winter (this is called marcescense, which is a fine word by any standard) – though the dead leaves are muddier in colour than the golden russet of winter beech leaves.
|The west pond with beech hedge beyond – Nov 2010|
Also, the Priory sits on heavy Wealden clay which is wet and cold in winter, and beech prefers to be rooted in light and airy soils. Hornbeam, however, would shrug off not only the poor soil but also the heavy shade caused by the weeping willows and oak. Fortunately the beech hasn’t cottoned on to how unhappy it should be and generally is thriving..
Last year I had a medium-sized, very pretty hawthorn tree taken down. It was growing up against the beech and causing the latter to die back. Sad to cut down a perfectly healthy tree but the beech has precedence. The die back above was the result of that hawthorn. Slowly, the beech is coming back.
|Ahh. There are my secateurs.|
As beech does thrive at the Priory, I’ve planted three more stretches; another sixty plants. That was back in February 2010
and they are doing well, with only one fatality. (Famous last words). With these new plantings there will always be plenty of beech hedging to trim. As if cutting the hedge wasn’t a big enough job already – I’m adding to it. What a big hedge. What a big job. This year, I decided to cut the hedge myself with help from Tim (not his real name) who helped me cut the driveway hedging a few weeks ago (see ‘The Mixed Hedging’).
|Hibiscus ‘Oiseau Bleu’ – finally flowering (in the rain) after a two year wait.|
We set aside last Thursday to do the deed but then, predictably, it rained. And rained. And rained. A day in the greenhouse then. The following day however, dawned clear and bright and we set to.
It was a long, hard, hot day especially as we weren’t just trimming the hedge but reshaping it. This was because, in places, the shape had been lost or too little taken off in previous years. There was a lot of cutting off a tiny bit of beech, standing back, considering; cutting off a tiny bit of beech, standing back, considering; cutting off a tiny bit ….
|The second arch viewed from the car park|
There are two arches through the hedge and it is surprisingly difficult to achieve a nice smooth, symmetrical sweep
|and from the west lawn.|
up and over from the horizontal.
|The main arch – the hedge here is at its thickest.|
In fact it is so difficult and tricky to cut hedge arches that I’ve decided to grow a third!
It’ll be at least five or six years before it attains Adult Arch Status.
|Please allow me one before and ….|
The amount of clippings produced were, as you can imagine, immense. But rather than raking them all up and barrowing them out to the bonfire site, I ran over them with the ride-on mower. They were sufficiently chopped up to be then dumped into the compost bins.
|….after shot. Thanks – you know how much I love them.|
Really pleased that we cut the hedging rather than hiring contractors. The beech hedges are so beautiful, so stately and so very integral and important to the Priory that it seems only right that they be cut by the gardener and, of course, Trusty Tim. For that reason it was quite nerve-wracking; they had to look good.
And, hey! Despite a large wasp nest in the lawn close to the hedge – no wasp stings this time. Result!
* I’m jolly glad they didn’t.