Spending most weekdays commuting to London doesn’t leave Hitesh much time to help in the garden these days. Luckily, there’s a merry band of helpers I call on when the going gets tough. Before we went away on holiday just one look at the To-do list was enough to leave me feeling exhausted so I lined up two half days of help in the run up to Christmas.

Deschampsia in the meadow February 2016

The wispy remains of deschampsia in the meadow February 2016

The first job was to clear the little meadow. The planting is a matrix of two native grasses, Molinia caerulea subsp. arundicea which collapses into an easy to scoop up heap in the second or third week of December, and Deschamspia cespitosa which can be left to stand through the winter. Last year I left the deschampsia to see how it fared. Let’s just say I didn’t sigh too much when I came to cut it down.

Learning the meadow this month

So, this winter the whole area has been cleared in one fell swoop using hedge cutters and strimmers. If all goes to plan the deschamspia will form neat green and tufty mounds by the time the snowdrops are out.

A ring of pots in the meadow

I’ve lined the horseshoe shaped access path with old cut off terracotta pots filled with compost, then sprinkled Papaver somniferum seeds mixed with fine horticultural grit over the top. There should be a scarlet ribbon of poppies floating above the silvery deschampsia, the first wave of grasses to flower in the meadow, in time for our NGS day on Sunday June 25th 2017.

Freshly gravelled area

The second task was phase one of regravelling the drive. It took four tonnes to do the turning and parking area at the bottom of the drive. Don’t worry, the pink dust will wash off over the next couple of weeks.

Acer griseum keys sunlit

The third item on the list was to tackle ‘the dumpy blue pine’ which we inherited with the garden in 2006. I often look at the Pinus sylvestris ‘Chantry Blue’ and think that it looks like an enormous bowling ball, one that gets bigger and bigger as the years go by. Although it’s not my favourite tree in the garden there’s lots to be said for keeping it : the blue colour of the needles is rather attractive; the bulky form acts as both a sheltering nurse for Hitesh’s precious Acer griseum to one side and a foil for Stipa gigantea to the other; and, the dense canopy is popular with nesting birds.

Blue pine after its haircut

The bottom quarter of lower branches removed

After a lot of head scratching, which is inevitable when you’re crawling around in a tight space being showered by prickly pine needles, I decided which branches of the lower skirt might be pruned without completely ruining the shape of the tree. From a distance the tree looks the same, however, the scaly legs of the tree have been exposed. At close quarters it looks a bit odd but the plants at the edge of the dripline now have breathing space, at least for a year or two.

Country Homes and Interiors magazine

Between these last minute blitzes, there’s been good news to spur us on and something nice to read over our tea breaks : two lovely pieces about the garden have been published this month. The first, Carole Drake’s article ‘Winter Glow’Β is featured in the January 2017 edition of Country Homes and Interiors magazine. (Apologies for the time it takes for the page to load.) The second, ‘Some grassy inspiration from Barn House Garden’ is a blogpost by local designer Lisa Cox and appears on her garden design website The Room Outside.

What a wonderful end to a busy gardening year. This week I can kick off my wellies and finally turn my thoughts towards Christmas.

Frosted cow parsley seed head

Here’s to the holidays!