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And we’re off. The hard graft season 2016 has been officially declared open.

The shot above may be a little blurry because the subject was indeed in motion and the light for photography dire. Note the winch cable right of centre. The camera caught the berberis in a less than elegant moment. And shouldn’t the gardener have remembered, only too well, the shrub’s ready capacity to extract revenge? Two days later and its beastly thorns are still stuck fast in three of my fingers.


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If you recall, last year we cut the berberis and the rhododendrons (bottom of shot) almost to the ground in the hope that they would re-sprout and could be moved away from the newly exposed edge of the lawn. Fortuitously most of them seem to have survived this brutal act and to show just how grateful I really am, this week they’ve been ripped unceremoniously from the ground and hauled off up the hill.


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Incredibly each one of the rhodos had been planted in its original nursery receptacle, many of the pots little more than 12 inches across. Some roots had spread from the top surface of the root ball but for the large part were still contained. The plants had virtually no drainage either. When we tipped one of the pots onto its side, water flowed out. It’s a miracle they ever established at all. At least it made them easy to dig up.


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The rhododendron ‘hedge’ prior to pruning, the largest of the shrubs almost 8′ high


Possibly the pots had been an attempt to keep the plants growing in ericaceous soil, or perhaps in the hope that their ultimate size might be reduced. Either way there were about a dozen specimens in this bed, growing intermingled having been planted on average just 18 inches apart.


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Rhodos in their pots,  plus the berberis, getting ready to roll


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And this is where they’re going.

It’s the area behind the outhouses, a dumping ground for fallen tree branches and a mass of brambles not so long ago. Prior to planting we’re cutting away the plastic pots and trying to loosen the roots as best we can. They’re going in at 1.5 metres apart this time with plenty of room to spread. I wonder if they’ll grow properly now, attaining the proportions they were always meant to have, or has the damage been done? At least they’ll have a chance. I plan to intersperse them with a variety of genera throughout Spring and Summer, to cover the ground and give me a low maintenance shrubbery in years to come. Hide the ugly backside of those sheds as well.


We’d started off working in Devon mizzle, not the most pleasant of conditions at the best of times, but by mid afternoon the rain had got to the thoroughly drenching stage. Suitably motivated, Mike found a new shortcut from one part of the garden to another..


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Elephant Pass

It used to be a trunk road. Doh. Sadly (happily?) I cannot claim ownership of such erudite wit, the credit must go to one of the chaps now helping us out with some of the heavier garden work. But you know how it is when there’s a tusk task that just has to get finished..


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You just carry on through regardless, right?