Hedging Your Bets


Another day. Another precipitous slope. It’s a wonder that I haven’t evolved hooves like a mountain goat.



Cast your mind back to a very muddy March this year and you may recall we had the digger in to landscape the area below the greenhouse. Since then it has, mercifully, dried out. Un peu. But up until recently not a lot else had changed. The plan has always been to extend the lawn from the foreground all the way up this strip, bordering it with a continuation of the low hedge on the left. What looks good on paper is rarely as straightforward as it might seem.



An even older picture, from March 2019, illustrates the problem.

In an ideal world the low hedge (now at centre) would follow a straight line into the distance ending roughly at that tree with the couple of branches leaning out to the right at 45 degrees. The existing hedge, as you can see, curved off to the right and if continued on this line would cut straight across the proposed new area of lawn to end up somewhere in the vicinity of the compost bins. To be fair to the gardener (always a sensible move), the tree with the leany branches wasn’t visible when she had first planted the hedge, obscured as it was then by a line of scruffy shrubs and goodness knows what else. What WAS visible at the time was the top of a flight of steps going down towards the river and she aimed the hedge to end at that.



Over the last few weeks we’ve also started work on preparing this strip of land for seeding, instantly coming up against problem no. 2. The gardener had made the point to the digger man, several times in fact, that this area should end up on the same level as the existing lawn.

Of course what the gardener hadn’t remembered until now is that the lawn itself is not level, it slopes downwards toward the river. It was an easy mistake to make (refer to note on fairness above), but has now meant a little bit of adjustment to the general shape of the terrain. Which certain parties, having hacked at it with a spade and a rake for the best part of an afternoon, may claim is not ‘a little bit’ at all.

This may be an opportune moment for a digression. See those bold orange patches in the distance? They’re really rather delightful.



Drifts of crocosmia. I never thought I’d hear myself describe the common montbretia as delightful but there we are. We think they may have come from a large clump which previously existed at the top of the hill and were redistributed here by the earthworks. Only such a random act, with a bit of help from mother nature, could arrange them so artfully and in this natural setting they remind me very much of a film by Nick Bailey on Gardeners’ World recently of crocosmia growing in the wild in South Africa. Though on a much smaller scale of course.



An English woodland may be a long way from Mpumalanga but they shall stay regardless. And hopefully continue to flourish.



And so here we are, up to date.

With much slippy sliding down the slope we dug up and replanted the last ten feet or so of the curvy low hedge. It may now look as though it has seen better days (it has) but the positioning is correct. It does present a further problem in that to achieve the straight line to the tree the hedge has to move downhill. Over time, as the hedge grows and the roots become established, we’ll have to fill in a bit more soil and move the lawn across to meet it. This means that while the hedge will appear from the front to be an even 18 inches high, from the rear side it will vary between eighteen inches and three feet high. Thankfully Lonicera nitida is fast growing and one heck of a tough shrub. I’m quite sure it will cope.

There just remains then the tantalising prospect of the 50 feet or so between the new end of the hedge and the tree. More levelling. More precipitous planting, with the slope becoming ever more unstable the further we progress, much of the soil having been just loosely piled there by the digger.

And of course, more lonicera. Given our predecessor’s delectation for the stuff it spreads rampantly across most of the garden. An almost endless supply. Failing that..



I have started a hedge fund.



Mike has seeded the bit of ground we have levelled and hedged thus far.

Can I detect the merest hint of green on that freshly tilled earth? I can certainly see that the acer is turning already. Bummer.


And finally..

If all this gives you as much of a headache as it does me, rest assured, our aforementioned predecessor must have had it much worse.



Freshly dug from the earth.

Who remembers when aspirin last came in glass bottles?