The ancient cherry tree needed surgery. Two huge branches were bare of leaves, while the main trunk was performing perfectly. I explained to my husband that if we didn’t take the necessary action, we risked large lumps falling during a storm. This could result in damage to the remaining wood, allowing moulds and other undesirables a cosy billet. He picked up his chainsaw and amputated the dead limbs, which was drastic but essential for the survival of the patient.
Eryngium giganteum (sea holly, Miss Wilmott’s ghost)
I only took my eye off him for a moment. The ivy needed a trim but Attila the Gardener lived up to his name. In the time that it took to make him a cool drink, thirty feet of climber and many years’ worth of growth had been ripped from its moorings and pulled over everything residing beneath. Tiny ferns which I had nurtured in the gloom were reduced to pathetic cries for help. Where he hadn’t heaved Hedera on top of the smallest, rarest specimens, he had stepped on them. The wreckage of the wall trained Lonicera (shrubby honeysuckle) topiary was so complete, it looked like a terminal case. The procedure allowed us an unparalleled view of next door’s busy washing line. The devastation was indescribable, as were my feelings. My heart was so full at the terrible destruction, I couldn’t think of appropriate words or deeds that wouldn’t lead to a call for an ambulance.
Rosa “Paul’s Scarlet” (climbing rose)
Riven with guilt at his own excess, Attila cleared up the scrot. He worked like a dog and made countless trips to the tip with a trailer stuffed with detritus. Where bits of derelict creeper remained glued to the wall, he cut them free with a useful flexible Japanese saw at which I had scoffed when he brought it home in triumph. I helped him to remove intransigent chunks of stranded stem and root, scraping at the marooned remains until my fingers bled. By the end of the day all was orderly. For an encore, my right hand man hewed the cherry off-cuts into pieces small enough to fit in the stove.
Acanthus spinosus (armed bear’s breeches)
The massive and unexpected nature of the transformation has forced me to rethink the design of the entire north facing border. I have a couple of Rodgersias suffering in over-sunny situations, that will relish a change of scenery. I had bought a Polypodum (May apple) which requires a shady location. I have been cherishing an Arbutus unedo compacta (dwarf strawberry tree) which will do well at the back of the bed. Epimedium (barrenwort) tolerates dry shade and I shall split a clump of Dicentra formosa “Bacchanal” (bleeding heart) to thread its ruby flowered path through such ferns as survive the operation. This is not a crisis but an opportunity. I may not share this hard won optimism with my spouse, since he has been my garden slave ever since his faux pas, with only moderate moaning. The ivy took me a decade to grow, so in my opinion he has nine years, fifty one weeks of bondage to go. I might knock off a week if he finds this essay unhinged.