I’ve been knocking my balls into shape. After an hour of perspiring in the sunshine with sharp shears, I’m worried that one hangs low. I’ve walked around glaring at them from every angle; they look better from the front, despite spending last year with their bare asses to the light. What do you think? The box plants were part of a hedge demolished at the behest of the owner. I planted five of them in the biggest pots I could find and have spent a considerable time trimming, feeding, watering and top dressing. After many seasons and despite all of this care, some have grown perfectly spherical, green and healthy whilst others are triangular and spreedy. After my assault, they are at least approximately the same size and shape.
Eryngium x zabelii “Big Blue” (sea holly)
Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ (woody honeysuckle) was a perfect teardrop, pruned with loving care, glowing against a backdrop of dark, sinister Hedera. When my husband took against the ivy and ripped it off the wall, he removed much of the support upon which the topiary depended. Reader, he shagged it completely. My pathetic efforts at tying it in, snipping and titivating have got me nowhere. I took my courage in my hands and asked Attila the Gardener to install a stake alongside the trunk, so that it could be trussed up properly. I had in mind a slender post, subtle and unobtrusive. The reality is a chunk of two by two inch timber, bedded into the soil with an iron bracket. The house will fall down before that gives up the ghost.
At the pond side
I don’t like Viburnums. The sweetly scented spring bloomers don’t like my sand and the huge, butch shrub types are not very exciting and smell of dog’s pee. They are all targets for any number of insects which specialise not just in destruction but leaving behind evidence of their incontinent dining habits.
Cotinus coggygria (smoke bush) & Rhododendron yakushimanum
I make an exception in my antipathy for Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’ (snowball tree, guelder rose), which provides a show stopping bush full of white pom poms in May. After flowering, it whispers a siren song of invitation to viburnum beetle and black fly. I can’t hear my son’s stereo over the noise of their whoopee making and the bugs have turned spouse’s newly painted wall into a blackened, dingy cemetery of wan hope. I handed my man the heavy loppers and gave him a brief tutorial on restorative pruning. I told him which stems to take out at ground level with the saw. “Are you sure?” I showed him which branches to reduce by a third. “Do you really want to cut off that much?” When I queried his timidity in the light of past scorched earth, he confessed that his previous forays with pointed equipment left him with nightmares and cold sweats. After he had finished the job I had to go over it again, chopping off a little more. I feel like a proper Tatar; it’s liberating, give it a go.