Jackie and I were up and out in the garden at The Firs before seven this morning.  It was a beautiful day, and we were determined to enjoy the fruits of our work over the last year and a quarter.  Bee on thistle 8.12We shared the garden with early morning bees.   Whilst I have been in France Elizabeth and Jackie have continued to plant, weed, prune, and generally maintain what has been done.  Some of the wilder parts have been opened up a bit.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth has decided she would like a scented bed.  Nothing wrong with that in principle.  In fact it is a very good idea.  She and Jackie have decided where it should go, and have assembled a mail-order bench and chair which has been sited so that there is a wonderful view through the pergola.  Elizabeth spent some time today painting a couple of occasional tables to complete the viewing area.  So what is unfortunate about the idea?  Well, whose task is it to dig new beds and compost them in preparation for planting?  Exactly.

Surveying the bedroom area I could see that I would need to mark out the undulating line which we prefer; dig up some grass; take out a number of weeds; prune some shrubs; remove most of an overgrown honeysuckle from next door; dig it all over again; compost it all; dig that in; then put the tools away.  ‘That’ll be my weekend’s task’, I said.  Ah, well.  Nice idea.  But if I finish it tomorrow, I’ll eat the horse manure.

Marking out the line was comparatively straightforward.  I actually have a good eye for a curvy shape.  This garden has parts which are very stony.  In fact we have made a virtue of this by planting Erigeron where there is not much else but stone.  Jackie and I had seen it placed to grow through brick paths and steps at Hinton Ampner, a country house at West Meon.  We thought it just the job for The Firs.  It has thrived.  The stones, however, made it a little difficult to cut a clean edge.

Naturally, the first part of the new bed, this morning consisting of mown couch grass millions of years old, lay on stones.  Persuading the tufts of grass to leave their fakir-style resting place, was difficult enough.  As much earth, a very rare commodity, as possible had to be shaken off.  The turves were than transported by wheelbarrow to the compost heap.  The fledgling robin that had sat on Jackie’s lap in June was quite interested.  It was extremely humid, and the dry earth on my arms soon had the consistency of mud.  A salad lunch was a welcome respite.

Raring to go, after a meal and a rest, I hit the first obstacle.  There seemed to be a solid, immovable, square of concrete.  ‘Ah’, said Elizabeth, ‘that will be the base for the brick pillar which was a continuation of the arbour’.  ‘There’s another on the other side.’  Well, that can stay there.  Most of the area I was then working was covered in rampant honeysuckle.  As I cleared this, all sorts of other goodies emerged.  Such as small trees which at some time had been cut down.  Their roots had been left, and they were sprouting.  There were suckers from the damson tree in the garden at the back.  Some of the trees bore thorns.  Some pricked me.

I had brought out quite a number of tools when I began,  I hadn’t thought I might need an axe.  I did.  So I went and got one.  For those who’ve never tried it, there follows an instruction in digging out small trees.  First you must clear the area of brambles, couch grass, dog roses, and geraniums.  The geraniums, of course, you must preserve most carefully.  Wiping your brow occasionally, being careful not to get soil in your eye, you must apply a garden fork to loosen the earth.   You then dig out as much as you can, stick it somewhere else on the bed, and have a go at moving the stump.  Naturally it won’t move, so you have to dig a bit more.  By this time you will have struck thick roots stretching across areas you haven’t dug and didn’t want to.  Then you have the pleasure of wielding the axe.  By this time, any thoughts of gentle care will have evaporated.  Cut through the stubborn roots; pull up the tree; and try not to fall backwards into a pergola post as it suddenly becomes free.

After that, if you are lucky, someone brings you a beer and you have an excuse to sit down.  Even though your back is aching you may claim that this is the only reason you have stopped.  And if they weren’t having one too you would not have sat down whilst drinking it.  Actually, Elizabeth did provide me with one respite during the above process.  She asked me to sand one of the tables she was painting.  I was only too ready.  In fact the previously described mud on my arms, mixed with blood from the scratches, took on an even more interesting consistency when mixed with sawdust.

Jackie’s paprika pork went down well and Elizabeth produced a merangue mess which was eaten.  I’ve had too much of the rather nice French red wine to remember what it was.

4 responses to “Bed-making”

  1. At last I have managed to read your blog! I like it and will respond more when I see you for supervision tomorrow!

  2. Gardening really is back-breaking work. Weed-pulling non-stop. But y’all are sure pros, as your gardens look gorgeous! I like how y’all use the real plant pots. I just use the plastic ones. Especially for the big plants, so that they’re easier to move aside when I need to cut the grass around ’em.

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