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Topiary

topiary

Topiary n 1 the art of trimming trees or bushes into artificial or decorative shapes

Topiary is most probably fondly remembered in most minds for the ye olde grande gardens of the mid 19th Century. But and possibly of surprise to some, the origins of topiary date way back to the times of Julius Caesar. Over the centuries and like all things gardening [or not] there are trends and it did [and does] fall in and out of fashion. Trends aside, there is something ye olde gardener in topiary and/ or by its definition, trimming bushes, that is romantic and very much separates the can do from the cannot.

Gardening skills aside and at a point in modern life where the popularity of cutting a domestic garden hedge may be queried, it is hard to see an en mass revival of this skill. That said, it makes me quite proud that I can take the cutting of a hedge exact, straight and by line of sight to an echelon above.

The images above here are from my own garden, planted to remember my first dog Bobby. Silly as it sounds, maybe, I think he’d be quite pleased knowing that his tree wasn’t just any old shrub.

If you do fancy giving topiary a go remember:

  • practice makes perfect
  • patience is king
  • you cannot sellotape cuts made back on

For the above I used a petrol hedge cutters first, then a shears and finally a secateurs. The stages are, obviously, noted in photograph back to front.

In the above photograph I have used Thuja and in my image below you can see Buxus semprevirens [box] and Laurus nobilis [bay laurel]. If you are thinking of planting hedging or trees now is the perfect time to do so whilst temperatures are still in single figures.

More information ? Leave a comment below – or –

formal hedge

Cutting Hedge

To an extent, this is a difficult one to write…. To cut a hedge properly is like putting in writing how to kick a football. Anyone can do it, but how many can do it right or more to the point how many have ever done a seriously bad job on attempting to do good 😉

I asked a friend recently for her hedge cutting tip. She told me…

just make sure you don’t wear socks and sandals at the same time….

A fair point. But fashion aside, there are some things that should be considered before one even dreams of looking at the hedge.

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The machine: there are hedge cutters and hedge trimmers. Petrol and electric. My advice. Buy once and buy well. Also, from my experience, when that machine konks, won’t cut as well or goes stiff because it was left outside over winter…. you’ll thank me for [maybe] paying that extra ten euro.

What I bought was a petrol hedgecutters. With blades on one side only and a protector on the other side. Some like the double sided blades, but it’s not for me. The cutters will take about 2″ width in growth. A big strong sturdy baby, I’ve had it about 4 years now and believe me it is well  tried and tested. It is also regularly serviced.

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The Fuel:

Most machines will take a petrol and 2 stroke oil mixture. The biggest problems I have ever heard are caused when one does not add the mix in and the machine grinds to a halt or the mix is in the wrond doage.

As far as I am concerned, 2 stroke oil is just that. I chose to mix up the [small] green can [5 litre] to 100 mls of oil [the smallest white one]. That’s a 1:50 mix ratio. Or a wee bottle into a green can. Can’t go wrong. Some may say a different ratio but thats a little dependent on the machine. Whatever you do, like not putting diesel in a petrol car… keep them – mixed and not mixed – very separate and label well if you have to.

The Cutting:

This is the tough bit…. if you honestly believe you are going to get into trouble and are one of those that is just not for DIY garden chores; if you are nodding your head as you read this…. just call me. It will cost you money but your partner will still love you 😀

If you are going to cut it yourself…. remember the measure twice cut once rule.

There are a tips to getting it right…

The first: if you have a fence on the peripheral this can be used a guide where the blades or guard rest against and this is your straight line. This also works as regards the topping – if – the hedge is to be maintained at that height.

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If you don’t have a fence type guide you could make a temporary one that can be used year after year. The only other way is to select by eye, the lowest/ deepest point existing in the hedge and making an indent nearby and on again…. one then simply joins the dots makes the indents meet up. Note: This is where you really need to be able to use your looking down the barrel of a gun close one eye type of view. Funny as it sounds level hedge cutting is very much a case of practice make perfect and the day before Marys big 40th bash is not the day to start training.

If one removes an inch all the way across and you make hedge bevels, in the growing season it can be cut back out again, when it grows back. But when you are in the middle of October and the hedge will not grow back until the following season…. take a look at the above video 😉

The tips are fine for compact hedges; For those that are more sparse/ less formal, like the bay laurel [for eg] one can take elements of height out with a secateurs first and once again join the dots with the machine.

Other than that, I also like to use a garden shears. For height I very simply use some builders tressles [like small scaffolding] or a telescopic cutters – basically a hedge cutters on an extension pole.

Whatever you do, if you are doing it yourself… take your time, enjoy it and don’t forget to allow for sweeping up time before you start.

How do you cut yours….?

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the umberella plant…?

My oldest brother came home from college one day with one of the little arrangements you get at Christmas time. My oldest sister bought it one day with her friend. 😀 anyhoo onto the plant….

I would have been about 9 years old I’d guess. Anyhow, the wee thing grew too large for the wee pot it was in and in the process it needed to be repotted.

At the time, I lined the inside of an old timber box and filled it with some compost. 23 odd years laters….my Mom gives it back to me!

The compost was absolutely spent and inert. It was merely a brown granule. The plant had grown long legged and the leaves fell off at a mere draft touching it.

It needed a new lease of life. I gave it one.

I ‘was told’ it was the umberella plant. I disagreed. I looked up the umberella plant in some of my reference books and came up with Schlefflera actinophylla…. so not far off the mark to be quite honest. But that’s a little akin to asking for ‘a Donegan’ and taking the one you thought looked like me – but it’s not ‘Donegan Peter’…. I hope that makes sense.

This plant is the Schefflera Gold Capella.

The foliage/ leaves are glossy green/ yellow variegated and palmate compound with 7-9 leaflets. Height & spread is a max of 10′. It rarely produces flowers.

They will grow in partial shade or good light and can survice well with irregular watering [if you are of a forgetful nature]. If you do need to repot should do so whilst its not producing new growth. Propagation is generally done by cuttings.

It’s a little naked at the moment. It’s just moved house, been amputated, shook around, trimmed and snipped… so it looks a little shaken… but it’ll be fine. I promise 😆

UPDATE: since writing this post about 2 months ago the last three images show the new growth that has appeared since it was repotted… and all the old coffee grinds I have thrown out on the top of the compost.

March In The Garden

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I haven’t done an ‘In the garden‘ session so far this year. Mainly because, well… I guess the snow, the rain, the cold and in such abundance just got a bit too much for me. Anyhow, that aside, it’s time to get grooving and moving and here is why and what  I will be doing in the garden this month.

The lime trees [image 1] are the greatest sign for me that life for this year is almost there. The burning red new stems and buds are so pretty. Loosen the straps, check the stakes and remove all the dead or diseased wood. This goes for all trees including the fruiting varieties. As you can see from my olive tree [image 2] that simply needs a little tidy and some select pruning but its not until we get to the smaller plants that some real work is required. The large window box which fed me with salad for all of last year [image 3] needs a total clean out. Very simply grub out all the old plants, but don’t throw out all the compost. Simply replenish.

The easy plants are the 3 just above, in order, rhubarb, sorrell and chives. Not a whole lot for me to do here just yet. They come up year after year. I may decide at a later stage to divide the chives and the rhubarb, but for the moment it’s simply a little taster of what nature is going to give me to eat this season.

The greenhouse has been pretty much empty since last year. It’s got a little grubby. The 2 dogs use it as a sun trap type conservatory and its very quickly transformed. Then its to my store of seeds to figure what I wish to grow for this season.

Potting table at the ready… this one above I made myself from an old pallet. It’s really durable and well able to withstand the elements. The window boxes are refilled. I’ve sown some spinach in here direct, which is not my usual way of doing it…. but lets see how they get on. The seed trays [my preferred method] are washed and filled, pre-soaked and in here I have sown coriander and chives.

That’s not all I have sown…. there are also some broad beans in liner pots [image 2 above] and anything else you can think of. There’s probably too much of everything in fact but, I live in a rural farming village so a lot of this will be bartered for bags of potatoes and other veg that I won’t grow 😉 All things in order I just need to keep my eye on the max min thermometer for very low temperatures [early frosts] which may affect. As a by the way, I’m going to give it a little longer before I go and mow that lawn of mine.

Now I’ve got to go and give my chicken run a lick of paint. But that should easily keep you going for the next 3 weeks or so. See how you get on, any problems or queries you know where to come. Of course in gardening, there’s always an alternate 😉

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Fireblight

Two of the photographs above are of a collection of Sorbus trees that I had in my garden. They are now nothing but a pile of ashes. The sorbus you see are members of the rosaceae or rose family – the most of which are susceptible to a disease known as fireblight.

The first thing I noticed was that the leaves were shrivelled, dead and still clinging to the plant. [These photographs were taken the last week in January btw]. The buds were also dead but still held to the plant. When I checked inside they too were gone. Necrosis had set in and the stems were dying from the top down.

The cause of this is the bacteria Erwinia amylovora spread generally by the wind blowing, insects and rain splash. It is that simple.

The recommended method of control used to be to burn the plant and that was the route I chose. I guess old habits die hard 😉 But some books recommend the pruning of the plant well below where the fireblight can be found. I simply prefer the better safe than sorry route and the chances of it affecting some of the many other Sorbus sp. that are planted in my garden.

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