Energy levels on full...

My holiday in the winter garden continues with all energy levels on full. I get well and truly stuck into the Hump. Sifter the cat sadly starts to spend his last days with us.

Friday 5th July - Day 7 of my Winter Holiday

I am not bored with the garden yet. The weather has been kind, too, and the morning frosts have been light. Today I might make a list of paragraphs (seems a bit excessive).

1. The Hump

From yesterday's walk in there the path is perfect - except it stops too soon. Today I need to push on, using freshly cut logs for edges, to create a longer journey. The Iris Japonica and the homeless rhododendrons could try out the cleared spot at the very beginning of the Hump where the driveway curves. This is sheltered and airy - a good spot for a summer table and chairs - except it is a bit close to the road. The old hebes need major trims. Yesterday my friend said that the inside of the Hump reminded her of bluebell glades in England. I love her!

 Jerome the cat is keeping me company
clearing rubbish from the hump

2. Maintenance

There is more clearing and cutting down to be done in the Pond Paddock Gardens. Heavy gloves will be needed to remove a fallen stump covered with a New Dawn rose cutting. This job is urgent. The Pond Border itself is most in need - the Gunnera stalks needs to be broken and folded over the crowns, the Ballerina roses can get pruned and the weeds removed. The start of this border by the decking has always looked scruffy, even mid-summer. Perhaps a spade is needed?

3. Glass-house

Seeds need to be sown, and any surplus plants given a reprieve (see the section on overcrowding) need to be plonked in pots (oops - no potting mix).

4. Overcrowding

Hebes over the water race can be removed, remembering that they were planted originally to fill the gaps, and there aren't any gaps now. The leaning cordyline can be cut down (guiltlessly, as it is sprouting at the base). Next year some Pittosporums need to be rationalised (a polite word for chopped down) - this year how about a wee trim?

5. Plants to be Shifted and Replanted (a sub-list)

Oops - where did all these rhododendrons come from? This new extremely detailed and descriptive list should inspire me to work for at least six hours. It's now 9.30 am. Back soon (optimist!) for my lunch break.

I will spend a short time tomorrow morning completing the newspaper and mulch-laying. Then we are going to the mountains for a quick day trip. I need a day off - my hands are sore, my legs are sore, even my feet are sore from tramping around all day in my gum-boots.

 Very pretty when in flower. Awful in winter.

Monday 8th July
Day 10 of my Winter Holiday

Before we go to the mountains I want to record a good idea. I think I am going to reclaim the potager area. Last year I was seduced by the free give-away roses, which found temporary sanctuary in there. Frankly the whole area looked messy all last summer, with its mishmash of perennials filling the gaps (and its unhappy lavenders denied the sun).

I have decided to re-organise this area and allow roses only against the wood shed wall. Spare roses will be put in pots. It is possible that a totally new border will then need to be dug to receive them! In such ways a great garden expands naturally - where expansion fits the need rather than follows some paper plan with arrows and measurements on it (so there!).

The potager re-make will be a muddy knees effort, so I will start it when we return. I will start by relaying the brick path which will define the area that roses will be allowed into. It should be easy to see if this improves the overall design. My pre-trip Hump task is to shift in some of the remaining bales of rotting straw and possibly plant more of the rhododendrons. But enough dribbling on in this already over-verbose diary. I will get out there!

Tuesday 9th July - Day 11 of my Winter Holiday

This has been a most satisfactory winter gardening holiday so far. For my aching legs at least, it was good having most of the day off yesterday. Today I have risen quite early (feeling extremely un-stiff) and am about to have a hot cup of coffee and a garden self-briefing. I know I should chop back and tidy the Pond Border and I should continue the potager. The Dog-Path Garden needs rethinking, particularly the area from the seat to the Plank. I will need to get some potting mix for the rejected roses and assorted plants.

 Me and my trusty companion cat.
Good Cat Behaviour

Off Into the Hump

But still my imagination zooms off into the Hump. Embarrassingly there are two more ill-placed rhododendrons to replant in there - and five or six more bales of mulch to be taken in - and horse poo is needed - and there are more tree lucernes which Wood Chopper Moosey need to cut down. I should have made a list. Anyway it's actually too frosty yet for much of the above to be possible, so I'll go and get the potting mix and the horse-poos. Back soon.

Later, Apres-Gardening...

I ended up only working in the Hump today. But as the tree lucernes have been cleared out I have been conscientiously clipping them into smaller pieces and carting them off to my burning spot (I have burnt every day of this holiday). The sad rhododendrons are installed with compost, mulch and a ring of horse-poos. I hope Taj-dog doesn't discover this - it would be paradise for a dog to roll in. Yuk!

I'm pretty pleased with the rhododendron area. It's now time to let the earth settle and see how they like it in there. Poor things - they've never flowered - actually I wonder what colours they will be?

Sifter the Cat :
Someone else must be feeding Sifter, or he has found a farmhouse kitchen with a cat door and is raiding another cat's food.

I am extremely cross with Sifter the cat - he turned up about midday two days ago howling and squeaking at me from the house patio (he had missed his tea the night before). I spoke to him, inviting him to keep me company in the Hump. This obviously was not his intention - five minutes later he was gone, and I haven't seen him since. These last days both Stephen and I have been home, pottering near and far around the house. He really has no excuse for not showing up.

Tomorrow I have to go in to work for a few hours. On my way home I will load up the car with more horse-poos and then continue sorting out the potager. I will need more bricks for the paths, so will have to raid one of my seats and replace bricks with tree stumps. Apparently the weather will turn badly from Thursday on, with heavy rain and cold temperatures.

 I grow a lot of lettuce.
Lettuce Seedlings

Thursday 11th July
Day 13 of my Winter Holiday

Yesterday I worked for three hours getting muddy in the potager. I shifted all roses into pots, weeded the soil, and re-laid the brick paths. I also pulled out large self-sown Honesty plants and found some little lettuce seedlings which I planted along one of the paths. Today I have also been in to work, but I am back and about to disappear into the Dog-Path Garden. Today's challenge is to redefine this area and make it work. It is often viewed from the house side of the water race and I suspect this may be the cause of my dissatisfaction. The seat needs reworking too - its surrounding plantings are not seat-suitable. I'm not sure what are, but never mind.

Well, I am back, and rather grubby - I have been digging some more of the water race edge. This means the Plank will have a garden border on both sides. I am half way to the beginning of the Oak grove. It seems like a random element in my gardening holiday, but hey! Gardeners sometimes need to follow these spur-of-the-moment whims. I can rationalise things by saying that this area will be my latest rose garden...

Friday 12th July - Day 14 of my Winter Holiday

Today I have spent a happy afternoon continuing my water race dig. The newly dug area is quite gently sloping and already part of its boundary with the lawn is edged. Unfortunately I have been forced inside - truth is that I wobbled and fell off the Plank into the water race. Rather cold water - rather wet gardener. My goodness - does this mean that I am losing my sense of balance? I was trying to wheel a barrowful of mulch at the time. Mind you, that Plank has been wobbly for a while now. My gumboots are soaked, and I was heartbroken as I watched my mulch floating off downstream.

 The birds spend each winter day hopping all over this tree, feeding
crab-apples in winter

But it's five o'clock, already getting quite dark, and I was almost finished for the day. Now I am toasty warm in front of fire, wondering what plants I will put in this new bit of garden. Perhaps the surplus roses - for next summer at least - as there will be great sunshine and little wind to spoil things.

Looking Back...

I think that my winter gardening holiday is now officially over. I can see myself spending the whole of today and tomorrow at school getting prepared. It's a good time for looking back, though. The weather this winter's holiday has been kind - benign, pleasant, never too cold, the frosts only affecting the early mornings. I've spent many of the days burning and clearing, shedding thermal tops and jackets ending up in my gardening shirtsleeves for my lunchtime cup of coffee.

Overall I feel a sense of pride. Not only did I start things, but I finished them off in style. My glass-house is well prepared for spring. Most of the sad rhododendrons which I've been feeling very guilty about are replanted. Uprooted roses now have a new garden to live in. The new paths in the Wattle Woods Garden and the Hump are beautiful and inspiring. The crab-apple tree near the house is heavy with visiting birds. I am a winter gardening legend (well, at least this winter).