Autumn brings with it a variety of changes. Deciduous leaves begin to fall, the summer crew begin their hibernation, the weeds slow, the temperature drops, the days shorten. And the hard work begins.
This week has been physically tough. I am loathe to admit it, but I am becoming increasingly dependent on Old Age and Cunning, rather than brute force. But the old gal is a long way from hanging up her secateurs and I still relish these exertions. Nothing is better than getting to the end of the day with muscles aching, face glowing, and still in one piece.
No day was tougher than Wednesday at Max’s. In the evening I was so tired I could barely talk. That doesn’t happen very often.
Unusually for us, we had pre-planned what we were going to do. These tasks had even been divided up into morning duties and afternoon duties. It is unlikely this level of organisation will ever happen again.
Max’s dad was to extend a border by removing some turf and relocating it to one of the bald patches. In this new extension he was going plant a Salvia microphylla. He did this with the addition of an interesting brick step affair that plummeted off into nowhere. Perhaps it is where he is planning to push me when I misbehave.
I was on pruning duty. A large and neglected weigela was to have a heavy, and most likely at this time of year flower-robbing, renovation. This mega-chop revealed a large variegated daphne, most probably Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’. I am sure I heard a sigh of relief from this elegant lady when she was liberated from her captor. Both of these shrubs were riddled with both ivy and brambles. A war ensued and, although victory will no doubt will be fleeting, I managed to dominate these thugs.
Then I had to transport the enormous pile of rubbish to the ‘bonfire that never burns’ at the top of the garden. And when I say top, I mean top. It all had to be pulled through a narrow gate (which had to be opened then closed, to temper Max’s bid for freedom) and dragged up slippery slate steps then up a steep grass slope with intermittent mud slides and cane chicanes. Then skid back down and start all over again. Five times in a row. Tired now.
Move a Lomatia ferruginea. This Chilean member of the tricky proteaceae family prefers an open sunny site, with lime free soil and moist deep soil. At the moment it is residing underneath a large Cornus ‘Porlock’, very dry and shady.
After the exhausting morning, this single task should be easy, especially as we would be working on it together.
A spot was chosen that ticked all the required criteria. More turf removal. More Frankenstein lawn patching. Then we started digging. “Nice soil” we said. “What is that?” we said. “Just some roots of an old tree, we will get them out”. More digging. Air holes opened to reveal gaping spaces. “Sink holes” we muttered. A bed spring. A metal stanchion. A tree, half burnt, half rotted. “We can dig that out”, we tried to convince each other. All thoughts of moving the lomatia had flown. Now we were on a mission. We levered, we smashed, we puffed, we cursed a little.
“I’ll get the axe” said Max’s Dad.
As myself and Max withdrew to a safe distance I wondered aloud. “Wouldn’t it be funny if it was the remains of a viking longboat, the bed spring was an amulet and the stanchion a sword, and you were smashing it to pieces with a big axe.” The axe came to a halt in mid air while we rushed for one last look “No, I don’t think so, I think we are OK”.
A piece of bark was pressed into the side of the pit. As I examined it I realised it had the distinctive look of conifer. Max’s Dad then explained there was an unusual covenant on the deeds of the house, as well as on others in the area, that pine trees should be planted in every gardens. This relic must be the remains of one that had been felled and the evidence burnt and buried along with other detritus. No one ever knew their guilty secret until now. How they explained the disappearance of their tree is anyone’s guess, Combe Martians perhaps?
Next week, top of the list, Move the Lomatia. Or perhaps create a plunge pool?