Tougher that the toughest...

 Winter shorts!
Winter Gardener and Dog

I'm wearing my gardening shorts and it's mid-winter. How tough am I? Tough as the toughest of the tough gardeners! Tougher! I reckon I'm pretty strong, too. Today I've been woman-handling more giant Gunnera, sawing through the prickly stems and pruning the leaves.

Friday 24th June

I'm sorting out the Stumpy (AKA Willow Tree) Garden's waterside plantings. I've dug out coarse green Carex grasses, and a Phormium which had itself totally tangled in the Gunnera roots. I've widened the waterside path, 'borrowing' heavy stones from the lawn edge of the garden to sure up one side. There's been lots and lots of heavy physical work, and I'm proud of my old-lady arms and shoulders. Nothing is aching, nothing is sore!

I have not been alone. I am never allowed to be alone in the garden. I've thrown Winnie's tennis ball a hundred times. Escher has barked a hundred times at some noisy machinery working next-door. Rusty and Fluff-Fluff (honorary dog-cat) have spent all day checking my progress, snoozing in the sun.

Gunnera Clean-Up - Before and After

Now it's the weekend, and big plans for both days are swirling around my head. But first - photographs of mid-winter colour! Just to show off to myself, you understand.

Then I will finish the new, widened path by the Willow tree stump - stones for the edge and path mulch on top. By the way, it needs to be a level path, so nobody (for example, me) tips over into the water. I can then continue cleaning the water race banks. I need to get in the water to trim ferns and Phormiums. It does occur to me that fishermen's waders would be rather cosy and useful...

 Still flowering!
The Fairy Rose

Late Lunchtime...

The path is done and it's level. I've trimmed a Phormium, dug out more Carex grasses, and sliced off the Gunnera roots that were stretching out into the water. This why Gunnera is less than desirable - in no time the roots would reach the other side of my little stream and dam the water system. I've had to change out of my muddy garments, and warm up the legs and feet, but I am going to return. This is not the end!

Aha! Dusk, tingling feet, warm again in dry woolly socks and slippers. I've been back in the water, this time axing out the mature Phormium by Willow Bridge, and slicing out several younger ones with the spade. I've also cleaned up more clumps of ferns, dragging all the mess out and up into the wheelbarrow, and dumping it over by the fence. I am extremely proud of my wintry efforts (getting into cold water, for one) and my general gardening fitness (swinging that axe).

A pair of large birds were shrieking and crashing around in my trees mid-afternoon. They looked completely black, long legs trailing behind like pieces of old rope as they finally flew to safety. The dogs were most interested. Pukekos, probably (they're royal blue and black). The commotion 'woke' up a possum in the Leyland hedge, who started making his loud bad-throat noises. My dogs know this sound well, and they were under the hedge in a flash, barking. How rude! Possums are supposed to be nocturnal. And unwelcome in my garden. Go away!

Sunday 26th June

OK. So how tough am I this morning? Tough as the toughest of the tough? Or tougher? It's drizzling, air temperature maybe ten degrees, the water in the little stream (AKA the water race) five or six degrees (Celsius). I have a plan, which involves the house being warm and inviting (the log-burner is merrily flaming), a bunch of warm dry clothes at the ready. Bring out the merino underwear! Sleek black, I think, with my lightweight merino hat (sage green). This is gardening on the edge. I'm going into the water, for as long as I can, to continue clearing ferns and excess Phormiums and Carexes.

 That water looks cold? It is!
Cleared Water Race

I realise what I've done over the years. I've let the ferns get away and reproduce madly, clumps getting big and bigger, without ever thinking, let alone trimming. Now they clog up the banks and even in high summer look a mess. Water feature or messy old fern feature? I choose water.

+10Aargh! It is wet out there! Black cat Buster has just arrived for a watery smooch, her coat glistening with raindrops. OK. Enough procrastinating. It's not going to get better for the waiting. Let the tough get going.

Three Hours Later...

Boastful gardening blogs where the writer/gardener keeps on congratulating herself can get a little boring? Don't answer that. Suffice it to say that I am warm and dry inside, and, as usual, very proud. Another over-sized Phormium axed out, and I've cleared most of the ferns from around The Plank. I've rescued all the pieces of variegated Acorus (a grass-like perennial which loves the water) which were accidentally caught by the spade. And how good has young Winnie the dog been? At one stage a large Phormium fan escaped, floating off downstream. 'Get it, Winnie' was all she needed to retrieve it for me. Good girl!

 These ferns are allowed to stay.
Phormiums and Ferns

Right. Two more hours, I reckon, and that will be it. But can I be bothered? The log-burner is warm and toasty and I'm reading a book on Everest (odd choice for winter). One small thing links extreme gardening to climbing scary mountains - keep moving to keep warm.


Non-Gardening Partner turned up with the shredder to clean up the Pittosporum branches - a job well done, and finished pretty quickly. So my last immersion wasn't for too long (we were going visiting). Now I need to make a decision about the next stretch of water race, along the Dog-Path Garden. Phexit? Ph = the next over-sized Phormium. Should it stay or should it go?