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I grow Dahlias for late season colour, when everything else has done its best, blown its stash or otherwise buggered off until next year. I have a dedicated patch for them due to an unhealthy obsession. I dream about their limitless shape, form and hue in the off season and drool over them when they are blooming. Since the Dahlias spend some months getting their act together, this means that a chunk of my summer display would be underwhelming were it not for judicious interplanting with a few annuals. This includes purple orach (Atriplex hortensis) which self seeds and is a little overenthusiastic or could be called a tad invasive. Actually it’s a thug. I’ve just spent a day cutting most of it to the ground, so that sunlight can reach the developing objects of my fascination.
Cynara cardunculus (artichoke)

Cynara cardunculus (artichoke)

Viburnum beetle has made antique lace of the snowball bush (Viburnum opulus). Since I dislike using insecticides, I have pruned off the worst affected foliage. I’ve chopped into the shrubs which flowered in spring such as winter flowering honeysuckle (Lonicera x purpusii), using the heavy loppers. I have trimmed the box and tidied finished perennials including oriental poppies, by cutting them to the ground. I’ve sharpened the lawn edges with an old kitchen knife and cleared the moss and other green scrot out of the drive and paths. I have pulled out a lot of the hardy geraniums which are self seeding in weed like proportions. I will be up to my ears in them again next year. I was given the original specimen by a dear friend and was and remain truly grateful. I wish that the plant had a better sense of proportion and a modicum of restraint. In return, I gave Botanical Barbara some orach seedlings; beware of geeks bearing gifts.
Humulus lupulus 'Aureus' & Cortaderia

Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ (golden hop) & Cortaderia (pampas grass)

My ears are joined to my shoulders with wedges of muscle that would make Schwarzenegger break out in a sweat of admiration. My thighs are so sturdy, I can crack walnuts between them. My neck aches from craning upwards, trying to reach the top of bushes not designed for people like me, challenged vertically. My eyes have shrunk to the size of cherry pips from squinting fiercely, in order to avoid getting insect poop or parts therein. My teeth are tender from grinding them together in fear, during prolonged sessions with the chainsaw. I have knuckles like a prize fighter and knees which would be the envy of any carthorse.
Conservatory in full swing

Conservatory in full swing

I can’t move my hands, due repetitive strain injury caused by vigorous employment of secateurs. Half a season’s use of a mower, hedge trimmers, scarifier and power drill has left me with vibration white finger.
I took my useless, maimed, floppy paws to the doctor and explained my predicament. Not only am I unable to grip a pair of shears, I am having difficulty raising a glass of gin to my parched, numb lips. My G.P. was not really interested, held out a supine hand and instructed me to squeeze his fingers as hard as I could. He looked bored. Eager to oblige and indeed, to gain his attention, I did as instructed. After all of this gardening, I might not be able to feel my fingers but I have hands like steel traps. When the unfortunate medic could breathe normally, he dashed the tears from his cheeks and promised some further tests. Now I can honestly say that I have a handshake so strong that I can make a grown man cry.

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