End of an era

I understand, I do. This pandemic is costing thousands of people their lives and many many their livelihoods. For those that survive ventilation their health will be compromised. The physical and mental toll will be nothing like many of us under 80 have ever experienced before. It’s knocking us all for six. In comparison to that my horticultural work losses are nothing. How long we must continue in this lockdown period, not being able to see and be with our friends and family, while the virus still has the upper hand is the great unknown. I am so grateful to be able to continue working in the beautiful Spring sunshine.

So far my losses have been minimal. . Hopefully the clients who can no longer afford a gardener will be able to manage their gardens with the extra time they have and will find the joy in doing it themselves. We can’t predict anything.

By far the biggest loss for me (and in comparison), such a small and insignificant loss, has been being asked to rethink a border, in one of my larger gardens, so it becomes maintenance-free.

When we started on this border over 12 years ago it was full of Himalayan Balsam (a notifiable weed), knee high in ground elder, smothered in bind weed, and perennials all growing into one another.

It has been a labour of love. With no budget to spend on new plants we had to separate the plants, remove some and bulk up others with repeated divisions. We moved them all around into a more coherent rainbow of colours , added height where it was lacking, texture in the form of grasses (donated), made natural arches for the clematis to explore and grew many annuals such as sunflowers, poppies and marigolds to change up the experience every year.

Regular bunny invasions, the odd stampede of sheep and the ever increasing army of ants, biting horseflies and midges have tried to thwart our every move. Hours were lost in conversation in trying to dig out the ground elder every year and fight the invasive Spanish bluebells and catch the ‘sticky willy’ (Galium) before it gets a hold on everything. Year on year the border has got better. To the point where it has really come to be my favourite place to be.

Well, that is it, such is the life of a gardener. We are temporary custodians that is all. It has been an honour and a pleasure.

The most practical and inexpensive solution to making this area less costly to maintain, will be to remove all the plants and grass it over. Mowing the grass will gradually kill off the perennial weeds.

I would like to plant an avenue of beautiful small trees instead. Maybe either crab apples with their vibrant red fruit dripping from the branches for 4 months of winter or perhaps a row of Hawthorn with its sweet smelling blossom in Spring, underplanted with blue bulbs such as anemone and camassia naturalised in the grass.

The client will make the final choice and we can dedicate the walkway and border to all those wonderful NHS staff who have held the front line during this incredibly frightening and tragic time in many peoples lives.

I’ll then be able to walk down it and away with my head held high.

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