There’s no excuse for having an untidy bush. Everyone can appreciate a nicely trimmed shrubbery and now is a good time to tackle the job. Your box should be clipped around Derby Day, in early June. This will enable new growth to harden before the first frosts. Since I have retrieved the shears from the shed and spat upon my palms, I’m going to shave everything that needs attention. My box is from a recycled hedge and is in the process of being turned into balls. The shrubby honeysuckle, Lonicera “Bagginson’s Gold” gets carved into a teardrop. Postpone hacking at anything of a twiggy nature which you want to produce blossom later in the year. I’m proud to count a Zen garden in my professional round. I smarten all of the shrubs into sharp shapes such as cubes, towers, spheres and pyramids. Buddhist Stan brings a perfect cup of Earl Grey tea for the gardener and then checks to make sure that my lines are true. Life is pain. His wife likes bursts of colour like explosions of movement amongst Stan’s strict structures of green. Yin and Yang make a perfect partnership.
Lonicera Bagginson’s Gold (shrubby honeysuckle)
If you are a practitioner of the Chelsea chop, now is the time to cut back late flowering herbaceous perennials such as Rudbeckia (coneflower) and Helenium (sneezeweed) by one third to half, for lower, smaller but more profuse blooms. Early flowering perennials which have done their thing already such as hardy Geranium and Papaver orientalis (Oriental poppies) may be chopped down hard, to clear straggly top growth and stimulate fresh foliage. Throw on a handful of fertilizer; please don’t expect the poor bastards to perform whilst running on empty. Hide the gaps in the borders if they bug you, with pots of lilies or annuals but remember to water them occasionally, in the unlikely event of us ever getting a dry spell.
Cotinus coggygria (smoke bush)
Avoid attacking hedges with birds nesting therein and leave them until August. Blackbirds have such hysterical, googly eyed, po-faced expressions of outrage at the best of times. If you disturb them at home in their pyjamas, they may detonate. They could desert their eggs if you are too intrusive and then your karma is truly stuffed. If you need straight edges, set up string guidelines. Do not fanny about; use a spirit level, it’s not cheating. Remember the batter where possible; that is, the base of the hedge should sit further out from the trunk than does the apex, to allow sunlight to reach the lowest leaves. For other forms, trust your eye and sharp tools. Make small cuts and work inwards, since it’s easy to snip away some excess but damnably difficult to put it back. Refrain from using electric or petrol powered cutters unless someone can hear when you scream. Do not employ such equipment up a ladder without having an ambulance on standby and even then, take great care. Eschew personal stereos or any other kit with cables, which will be severed or worse, pulled into an utterly remorseless blade. Step away from the target at intervals; look from a distance and at all angles. Here’s a helpful hint; when only brown is visible and the green is all gone, then stop. Channel some light housekeeping, rather than the full Brazilian. If you make a mess of it, the plant will soon hide your worst excesses. The tousled appearance will last little longer than your last disastrous haircut, unless you really balls it up.
Be cautious before allowing your partner to prove their worth, love or masculinity by giving them the job. Attila the Gardener got his name for a reason and after he demonstrated his scorched earth policy, it was easier to chop down the holly than wait for it to recover. In the south of England, they apologise to their fruit trees after pruning. It’s worth a try.