Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Plant of the month - December

Euphorbia martinii

Not one of the usual suspects for this time of year, but though lots of people praise this lovely euphorbia, not many talk about how gorgeous it is in winter.

The purplish-blue glaucous leaves, with an accent of red at the centre of each rosette, hold their form and colour so well. They make a compact mound in the border which looks even more beautiful when, as in this picture, a drop of water or frost is held motionless and perfect on the surface of a leaf. This is a beautiful plant to use as an unusual evergreen accent: about two feet high, rising to about three feet in summer with the flowers (equally stunning) come out. I wouldn't be without it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Plant wrestling

Another session with the overgrown pond today, and I've at last had a go at the sadly overgrown forsythia which dominates that corner. It's interwoven with an equally neglected Kerria japonica, and though they make quite a display in the spring, it's in that brassy yellow which is better reserved for my kids' paintboxes. They've got to go.

So out came the pruning saw, loppers and secateurs, and I've now got a towering pile of bonfire material waiting for me to set a match to it. The area looks a whole lot clearer already, but I've yet to tackle the really difficult bit - digging out those massive rootstocks. There must be 15 years' worth of growth there, and it's going to be a horrible job.

I've put it off for now, as failing light meant I had the perfect excuse, but before long I'll have to put the concrete breaker to it - my standard solution to unyielding shrub and tree roots. It's a massive piece of iron, so heavy I can barely lift it, with a spike on one end and a wedge on the other. Once you've dug a hole into the rootball, you thrust the spike into its heart, and then jump on the other end - it takes a few attempts, but I've yet to come across the rootball that can withstand the onslaught! Easy work it is not, though - I'm not looking forward to this...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pond dipping

I have a small and very overgrown pond at the end of the garden that's been woefully neglected over the last few years. It was pretty bad when we moved in, as the previous owner hadn't thought to net it in the autumn so it was very silted up with leaves and stank to high heaven.

I had been getting on top of that problem - last year I almost had it clear - but I'm cursing now because I didn't get around to putting down the net in October, and now have a pond full of leaves again. It doesn't help that the pond is sited under a willow tree, with a big old forsythia the other side. It's also at the "woody" end of the garden, where all the apple trees are, and also close to our tree-lined boundary with next door. Clear proof of the old advice never to site a pond near trees.

Anyway, so I spent some time today doing a repair job on the leaves situation, as best I could, and then put the net down anyway as the forsythia is still hanging on to some yellowing leaves on a particularly large branch overhanging the pond itself. The words lock, stable, horse and bolted come to mind, but there we are, it can't be helped. I have lots of ideas on developing this area in the long term, but for now it's a clearance job. Lots of hard work ahead here, I think.
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