Sunday, 30 January 2011

Things Are Gearing Up

Quite a good and positive week just gone. On the health front the blood/rat poison medication appear to be finding a level now. Blood test again today, and  I am feeling optimistic about the results, and hopeful  that that will be the end of my stomach jabs.

As you can see from the picture above, the avocados are doing well. It's still not warm enough for them to grow very quickly, but they are being checked whenever I enter the kitchen.....quite excited about these!
Work is starting to gear up another level as well. February and March are fairly quiet in comparison to the rest of the year, and have been planned this way so that whilst rest can be enjoyed,there is also enough time to do any planting or landscaping that is required. Monday saw the arrival of two large planting requests, the placing of two tons, in twelve pieces, of purbeck stone to deter cars from driving onto a lawn, and a Horse Chestnut tree to plant. Four extra one-offs this week....not bad!
The first of the two planting schemes is at one of my regularly maintained properties. In the picture below you can see the front lawn in the summer, and an area was cleared in the border just behind the left hand Phormium in the background. Although the shrubs that you can see in this border look neat and trimmed, the area just out of site to the left had never been pruned properly prior to my taking over a few years ago, everything had just been trimmed higher and higher, and so radical cutting back and clearing was needed.

The result is this. Most things now gone, and only two Philadelphus remaining, but reduced to about one tenth of their original size. The canes mark where the new shrubs will go, I shall let the Philadelphus start to shoot and then prune them back by about half again, thus creating tidier and much more manageable plants. These will then be pruned properly every year. All in all, with a few to fill other gaps elsewhere in the border, about twenty specimen shrubs to go in.

Another angle of the same border.

For reasons beyond our control we didn't do Burns Night on Tuesday as it should have been, and so enjoyed it on Thursday instead. Now, let me at this point state that about three weeks ago I decided to become vegetarian. The decision wasn't made on the grounds that I have started to hate the taste of meat, on the contrary I love it and have enjoyed mostly fatty lamb and pork crackling, the latter being something that I could quite happily have eaten a whole pigs supply of...and not kidding! No, for me, the reasons are ones of firstly the cruelty that is now shown to pretty much all animals, and particularly to the ones we eat, and for my own personal health and recent scares being the second.
So, getting back to Burns Night. Whilst we were in Edinburgh, as mentioned in a previous post, we bought a rather nice haggis for just this occasion. It has been in our freezer and was defrosted ready to cook. There are various meat products in the freezer that over time will be eaten, but most importantly not replaced. In the meantime my view is that as these animals died so that I could eat them, then eat them I shall and not throw them away. I donned a shirt and tie for the occasion, whilst Amanda looked totally gorgeous in her tartan bodice. Haggis, neaps and tatties are generally the thing to be had, all made moist with onion sauce as tradition dictates. Scotland figures very prominently indeed in Amandas family. A grandfather raised in the Glasgow gorbals, and several generations ago the Naismyths, particularly the famous artist Alexander Naismyth, who was the close friend of Robbie Burns himself, and produced the most famous painting of the man himself, now I believe in the National Scottish Portrait Gallery.

The other planting scheme at another regular was completed yesterday. Below is a picture of the island border in question, taken during spring of 2010. Although not a large border in itself, it had about ten shrubs that had become far too large for where they were, and as a result needed to be cut or trimmed back several times a year to keep them from encroaching onto the lawn. This of course reduced their flowering capability to zero, and so the first job to do was to rootball them all up for transplanting into a perimeter border to the rear of the property, whereupon they will be allowed to grow to their full capacity. The rather lovely Magnolia that you can see was left in place, along with a Daphne odora Variegata, as the latter was in good condition, and these don't always transplant very successfully.

It all looks rather sadder in the winter doesn't it? But as the spring arrives, and the ground warms up, grass will become greener and the shrubs will fluff! New plants included Lavender, Mahonia, Cordyline, Potentilla, Azalea, Cornus and Phygelius among other things, all able to be kept a bit more under control whilst giving general colour through the year. Not necessarily my first choice in how to plant this border, but you very often have to go along with the various wishes of the client. My initial thought went along the lines of....leave the Magnolia, cover the border in purple slate chippings, and have clumps of coloured Phormiums and various grasses....but there you go eh!

The larger shrubs that were removed went into the back of the border behind the silver car.

You can't really see very well, mostly due to my poor photography skills, but transplanted into here were a very large Forsythia, Hibiscus syriacus, Abelia grandiflora and Hamamaelis. The Rhododendrons, and Laurels to the left but out of shot, will be reduced to 18" in the late spring, thus creating a larger and more interesting border. I will try and take photos with a better angle and perspective then.

For now, I have sweet tea, it is 8am and gloriously sunny. I think a nice long walk along the beach to start to get these legs muscled up is in order!.............TTFN!


  1. You certainly sound like you are feeling better!
    Grow avacados, grow!!!!
    You do a great job of planning all the changes at the various properties you maintain and beautify. The promise of spring and getting everything going as you wish is just around the corner.
    Enjoy a little rest and my you continue to find ways to improve your health and wellness.

  2. Knowing all the proper names for plants amazes me, I would have to whip out all my little plastic tabs for about 1/2 of what I have. Amanda looks wonderful in her tartan outfit, you two are too romantic, take care, Gina

  3. Growing an avocado is definitely fun. Good idea about the stones!

  4. Oh the beautiful grass in the photo after the avocado, what a lovely sight to behold... how do you get the line pattern on it, I've always wanted to know that. It certainly doesn't happen when I mow my lawn!

  5. Hi Sherlock,
    Yep, feeling a bit more energised, and not so worried about a clot wacking my heart or brain now the rat poison is doing it's job. I do indeed love the spring and am looking forward to the warm and sunny weather it brings.

  6. Dear Gina,
    When I started at Compton Acres, every plant had to be identified by both common and botanical name, and it was the latter that had to be used as a matter of course. Fine and useful when younger, but as one gets older, the brain has become a bit 'addled', and they don't always spring to mind quite as readily as they should. As for the tartan...I must admit to her looking totally scrummy in it!

  7. Hi meemsnyc,
    The avocado is very, very slow at the moment because of the colder weather, but is proving to be quite fun, and i must admit to a bit of optimism this time around. The stones meanwhile, although a good idea are a job that looms on the near horizon, and is a job that I am not relishing as they have to be man-handled into position.

  8. Ali,
    I always hate the look of the lawns in this part of the country at this time of year as they always look tired. They do green up nicely in the spring though with warmer weather, a bit of scarifying and some feed. The stripes are very easily achieved using a mower with a roller on the back. These can either be the more expensive cylinder mower, or a rotary roller model such as featured in my post a few posts back. Straight stripes take a little practice, but if the lawn isn't regular in shape then it's great fun to make your own swirly style. One thing to remember with roller mower though is to never cut in the same direction the following time as grass flattens slightly in that direction, and will get longer and flatter as time goes on. :-)

  9. Glad your health is looking up. And I'm with you on the vegetarian haggis. That was what we had last week. Left to myself I would be vegetarian, but I have to convince the other half. So I'm working towards it by reducing our meat intake. Step by step.
    Now off to look up all your shrubs to try to picture the plantings you mention.

  10. Glad to hear you are on the mend Gary and growing stronger like your Avocados. What struck me in your post is how much shrubs need to be managed to keep them from taking over, particularly in an Island bed. Live and let live is a good vegetarian motto but obviously not one that can be applied willy nilly to plants.