The simplest task in the garden can be so pleasing, don’t you think? It is easy to transform something that is assuredly past its best into something full of promise. Take this aquilegia for example:
Just pull away all the dead growth (it comes away easily), and you reveal …
… the bunched up tiny fists of new growth. (Ideally you should leave all that dead growth in place to protect the nascent growth from heavy frosts, but I need to get all this done now).
Tidying up a single plant is pretty gratifying but tidy up a whole bed and you can chew off a big chunk of self-satisfaction and and swallow a whole mouthful of smugness.
The Miscanthus transmorrisonensis that has been looking pretty good since I planted it last spring, is now past its best and shredded with every gust of wind. Annoyingly, I find its leaves all over the place – so it’s time it went. It also has new growth emerging, so I’m cutting it back now while I can still do so without damaging those young shoots.
Sadly, I don’t possess a shredder so all this material has to be carted out to the bonfire site rather than the compost bins.
Once the miscanthus has been cut back, the bed needs to be weeded:
Post and rail fencing (with rabbit netting attached), separates the bed from Margaret’s field. This makes it difficult to keep grasses and nettles from encroaching but it doesn’t matter too much; during the growing season the miscanthus hides a thousand sins (and a thousand weeds).
I then mulch the bed with my precious leaf mould (of which I have plenty this year) and Bob’s your uncle. (Actually he happens to be my Dad. Hi Dad). The Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) that I planted along the rocks at the front has taken hold really well and should provide a gently breaking, low wave of white flowers all summer long. These plants were all self sown seedlings from elsewhere in the garden, so didn’t cost me a penny.
After I’d finished, some of Margaret’s sheep came over to see what I was up to. Unimpressed, they eyed me warily, sniffed and wondered off.
The new, small triangular bed (the Kitchen Bed) has also been mulched. This was planted up recently with box edging and an Acer palmatum dissectum centre stage.
I then went on to do the Eve Bed (so called because its centrepiece is a standard Virburnam tinus ‘Eve Price’). Incidentally, the naming of the beds is for my benefit only. No-one else (you aside) knows these names. They serve only to ensure that I know which ones I’m talking about when chatting away to myself.
As soon as I knelt down to start tidying up the Eve Bed, the Stinky One clambered over the box edging on her short legs and parked her bottom on the heuchera. She was after an ear rub and perhaps a biscuit . (We share similar aspirations in life). She got both.
I recently lifted these heuchera and split them. I was able to get two, and in some cases three, plants from each. They don’t split particularly easily but I just stick what seem to be unlikely survivors back into the soil and they do take. Trust me. Eventually I want the soil beneath the viburnam to be a carpet of continuous heuchera. It’s getting there.
Solo (aka the Stinky One) wandered off eventually to stare at some ducks and I was able to apply the leaf mould.
When it appeared last summer, the heuchera flower colour was rather pinker than I’d been led to believe by the photo on the label.
But the overall effect wasn’t horrendous and boy, did they flower for a long time. Months!
Well, that’s some of the smaller beds mulched. I still have more of them to do and all the bigger ones too. Yikes. Best get on with it. Bulbs are already emerging so I’m up against it. Mulching a bed after bulbs have started to spike through is much more time consuming, as you can imagine. I’ve no time really to be sitting about chatting with you lot. Sorry, but I do have to crack on.
(In case you wondered, and I’m sure you know all this, mulching suppresses weeds, protects roots against hard frosts, helps retain moisture and will eventually be taken down into the soil by earthworms to increase the levels of organic matter (humus*) in the soil. This in turn helps to create a better soil structure by causing the soil to clump into aggregates. Aggregates allow better aeration and drainage in clay soils, while the addition of humus to sandy soils aids moisture retention. Humus also increases the nutrient holding capacity of the soil, rather like a sponge, but is not rich in nutrients itself; unlike say, well-rotted manure.
Here endeth the lesson on soil science. Don’t worry there probably won’t be a test).
* add another ‘m’ and you get something very different, and altogether tastier.