Welcome to my garden journal entry for February 22nd 2020.
The Intro… I’m a professional gardener/horticulturist and post weekly to record my gardening experiences and activity. My main workplace is in Broadwell, Gloucestershire, and this journal is independent – content does not represent views of my employer or any organisation.
Once again I’m tempted to focus on the weather we’ve experienced this week. However, as I know that so many have suffered much more severely, and in neighbouring counties too – I feel I can’t moan about what was simply, for me, just a few more wet and windy days that caused me to change my work plan.
Counting my blessings then, I can thankfully focus on the positive days, moments and tasks that have filled this gardening week, such as with my first image below of Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’, basking in the Saturday sunshine in my garden. The petals are almost too light for my taste, especially knowing some of the deeper blue flowers available, but the deep yellow and patterns on the falls are just mesmerising – and all the more agreeable for the £1.75 I paid back in November!
My next three images record a pretty intense activity that kept me very occupied on Tuesday and Wednesday – coppicing a handful hazels that were established either side, and possibly through this lovely dry stone wall. I did post a video to my Instagram account but suffice to say, it was quite a jumble and not your average coppice stool.
It was clear from the outset that a good amount of decaying wood was present, but whilst I found some healthy wood to cut back to, the extent of dead material was considerable. Knowing this makes wonderful habitat for a range of insects, it was too good to waste, and so I constructed a nearby habitat pile.
I could not guarantee that a few bug homes weren’t shaken up during the coppicing work, but I could at least offer a longer term bug hotel just next door for the foreseeable future.
My keenness to take on the congested mass of woody growth wasn’t just to make an area tidy, but also for the good and useable timber it would supply. As such, after cutting the shrubs back to basics, all the harvested growth was sorted into similar sized piles, and will wait in the wings for the opportunity to play a supporting role in the garden this year. The coppiced ‘stools’ will now be allowed to grow back naturally over the next few years, before the exercise is repeated.
I have to say that I love coppicing. It’s a task that grounds me, being an age-old activity that demands simple things: a little knowledge, a sharp saw, a methodical approach, and for me – a deep rooted feeling that I’m repeating an activity that has been done before, and will hopefully be done again in a handful of years.
Coppicing literally brings you to your knees, and forces you to think about things like the passage of time, the manipulation of nature for our own ends, and a productive activity that seems timeless. Or maybe that’s just me…
OK, so maybe I’ll refer to the weather just once more, when on Thursday the heavens opened repeatedly. Thankfully again the forecast had been very accurate, and so with sodden soil I had written-off outdoor gardening for the day, and wasted no time by servicing some of the tools that had worked very hard of late.
Furthermore, whilst the hail hammered against the brew house windows where I’m based, I set about some garden planning for the next few weeks – which look to be rather busy with project work bringing many more people onsite. Mind you, I have to add that the rain did eventually clear through, the sun returned and the little primulas in the lawn shone once again – what a way to end the day.
I’m very aware that next weekend sees the arrival of meteorological spring, and even at this early point in the year the grass is actively growing, tulips are breaking the soil surface in search of light and blossom buds are bursting in the trees. It might not be spring as we wish it, but even if the weather does turn again, a new growing year is well under way now and the pressure of mounting tasks build! (Yes gardeners do feel pressure too – it’s not all lightness and joy!)
Other tasks this week included some hedge tidying and the trimming of an ornamental pear that needed its crisp, umbrella-like shape returning. Shrubby tasks like these need to be drawn to a close now as birds are actively seeking places to nest – spring seemingly breaking earlier has moved all of this activity forwards, and needless to say – all of the above work was carried out after a good search for any signs of nests under construction.
That brings this week’s garden journal nearly to a close – a very heavy but rewarding week of activity. Next week I have a volunteer day to plan for, amongst many other tasks in preparation for spring.
I hope you enjoy your bird friendly gardening this week too! Regards, Gary.