Monday, 15 September 2008

In the garden

We had a pleasant Sunday at Lola Towers, in the manner traditional of country gentlefolk through the ages: Mr A mowed the lawn and I launched a frenzied attack on the shrubs.

I remember when we first moved in to the Towers; it was the first garden I'd been wholly responsible for, and luckily a manageable size. I thought the plants had grown quite a lot by the first autumn and needed some careful pruning, but I was aware of my previous experience indoors, where plants keel over and die if you don't tend them with the love usually reserved for newborn offspring. So I pruned gently, trying not to give these outdoor cousins any excuse for telling me later that they didn't have enough greenery to photosynthesise.

Obviously, the next year we could hardly see out of the windows for overgrown shrubbery. Ever since then, I have attacked the garden every autumn with barely suppressed mania.Yesterday I filled three bags with just the ivy that has grown since last year when I cut everything green off the plant in the hope it would die. It's been growing for ten years in a very small pot - it has to run out of nutrients eventually, doesn't it?

After the ivy came two of the plants at the garage end of the garden: forsythia and choisya. I'm attempting the strategy of sawing off a third of these each year in the hope that the remaining stumps will offer flowers in profusion on a small bush rather than encroaching ten feet into the lawn. In searching the web for the proper names for these plants, I discover that I should have pruned them after flowering in May, but it is possible to chop them both down to stumps.

Mr A kindly assisted with stuffing all the prunings into bags, which I'll take off to the dump today. We have tried many ways of disposing of the garden cuttings, but taking rubble sacks to the dump is the only practical answer. When I tried burning clippings, all the neighbours telephoned to make sure the house wasn't on fire. We haven't got enough space to compost all the unwanted garden greenery along with lawn clippings and excess kitchen waste.

That was only the first day of the garden campaign: there's much more to do. Ceanothus, berberis, clematis, the other choisya (which is flowering again), bay, more ivy, and aucuba. It will take quite some time, and we're hoping to go away at the end of this week, and then the new term starts. Oh well.

Unwanted shrub in borderI do have one query - there's a large shrub right in the front of the border that I don't want there any more. I also have two mint plants doing quite well in pots (as long as I remember to water them). I wouldn't mind digging the shrub out and putting the mint there instead - is this a good time of year to do it? I'm quite aware of the tendency of mint to take over, but it would have quite a lot of opposition from the other plants there - you can see the rosemary and the sage peeking around the unwanted shrub. To tell the truth, we wouldn't mind if the mint did spread wildly, because we love it. Would the displaced shrub survive if I planted it in the shade where I've cut the choisya and forsythia right back?


Dick Madeley said...

Judy says dig it out but I really don't want to help responsible for the consequences.

Anonymous said...

From what I heard from other people (I don't have a garden, yet) the mint kills every other plant. I'm not sure what other plants that person had in their garden, but it might be better to buy a bigger pot if you want more mint?

Anonymous said...

Difficult to be sure from your photo, but is it a fern? Look if there are brown spots of spores on the underside of the leaves. If it is, you can look for advice in the book, but it will do well in the shade.
You need an expert, not an ungrammatical fake madely!
Speak to your mum!

Lola said...

Thanks all!

[Anonymous: it is considered bad form to slag off previous commenters, but I suspect that you are my dad. Stop it!]

Dick Madeley said...

Ah ha! Perhaps this is the bad grammar your father was talking about. Of course, I meant 'be held responsible'. It's not such bad grammar. Merely bad typing.

Sally said...

Mint can take over, so many people plant it in a large pot and then sink the pot into the ground and plant it...if you get what I mean. This is just so the roots don't take over all your other plants.
Good time of year for getting rid of something, but I would worry about replanting anything now..would suggest waiting for spring.

Jay said...

Think very carefully before planting mint directly into the ground, especially since you have a lawn. It WILL grow out into the lawn, and it will spread. Everywhere. 'Take over' is putting it mildly! LOL!

I agree with the previous poster. If you want it in the ground just there, plant dig a hole big enough to take the largest pot you can find. It might be worth drilling a couple of extra holes in the bottom - or you could use a concrete drain section on its side (you know the ones, like a piece of pottery tubing) because mint runners grow fairly near the surface. Bury the pot/drain section so that the top is about level with the surface and plant the mint inside it.

Lola said...

I've actually got an old suitcase that I kept for just this purpose, so perhaps I'll do as you all suggest: get rid of the unwanted shrub now, then put the mint in the suitcase in the spring. Thanks!