Things take a dark turn in the garden…

While moving turf and digging out new beds I’d noticed lots of very tough, long, dark roots all over the garden. They looked similar to the long tap roots of cinquefoil – the perennial weed Potentilla reptans. But I never saw any top growth. And these roots were mostly travelling horizontally, a few inches below the surface, rather than down. And they really were long – too long for cinquefoil. And then finally, I realised what a dolt I’d been. They’re not roots, but rhizomorphs – it’s the dreaded honey fungus (or as it’s also known, bootlace fungus, after the long, black rhizomorphs that grow out for great distances).

Rhizomorphs on a section of tree root

My only excuse for not realising sooner is that up until now, I’d never seen it before. The two dead trees we inherited in the garden should have been a good clue. Entering panic mode, they had to go; starting with the biggest, right in the centre of the garden…

That took some effort! I felt a bit guilty burning it, but I did at least wait until the wind was in the right direction, so that the smoke blew away across the fields, rather than back towards the neighbours. And the guidance is to burn infected material. Mind you, it was still smouldering late into the next day! I’m now trying to cut up what’s left for a more controlled burning experience.There are a couple of roots still there under the grass, heading out in different directions – we’ll need to lift the turf and dig them out too. I may hire a chain saw for the other dead tree!

There are, apparently, five different varieties of honey fungus, or Armillaria, only two of which are generally found in gardens. I think we have A. gallica, which has large, easily visible rhizomorphs. Thankfully, this is considered to be the less damaging variety. The other, more destructive variety, A. mellea, has rhizomorphs that are much less visible, so very difficult to find. Looking on the black side, I suppose this means we could have that too! Let’s hope not.

These evil rhizomorphs have spread across much of the garden…

There are no chemical treatments for Armillaria. The only things you can do are to dig out and destroy infected material (difficult, if not impossible), bury impermeable barriers to a depth of around half a metre around infected plants or stumps, or around healthy plants you want to protect (difficult, if not impossible) and to use plants that are less susceptible to honey fungus. But apparently no plants are immune, and the data around which are more, or less susceptible seems questionable. The RHS list, for instance, has Pyrus (pear) in the least susceptible group, and Choisya (mexican orange) in the most, whereas Gardening Which says exactly the opposite! And the RHS contradicts itself in different articles. In their defence, they do point out the problems in identifying susceptible species – those that are most reported are likely to be those that are most prevalent (and/or, most valued) in gardens.

So; what’s our plan to eradicate this pernicious enemy?

  • Remove the dead trees (including as much of the root system as possible),
  • Hold off with any more tree planting for now – hopefully by the autumn, deprived of their food source, most of the rhizomorphs will have died (good riddance!),
  • Cultivate (i.e.; dig over!) as much of the garden as is reasonably possible. Go through the ground with a fine-tooth comb (alright; a hand fork!) and pick out as much rhizomorph as possible,
  • Keep on digging down around the trees we’ve planted (but not too close; we don’t want to damage their roots) to head off any actively growing rhizomorphs,
  • Hope for the best!

The dry weather may well be helping us, drying out any rhizomorphs left in the ground.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The white lilac (Syringa) in the chicken run has just flowered, and looked (and smelt) a treat…

And the Iris sibirica we brought with us in pots is flourishing…

text & images © Graham Wright 2020

Another Spring Drought…

For the past few years I’ve written about a prolonged drought at spring – a time when you wouldn’t necessarily expect it. I wondered whether it was just in the Vale of Glamorgan, where I was living until last December. But now I’m in Shropshire, and this year’s drought is like nothing I can remember. Grass is going brown. The 250 litre water butt we installed a few months ago has long since been emptied. And the pond is becoming little more than a muddy puddle…

The alpine flowers look pretty reflected in the water, even if the surface is a bit messy. We inherited the pond, the bridge and an artificial hill with an imitation mountain stream waterfall. Not really our style, but I have to admit that at this time of year the alpine flowers look wonderful…

The darker blue flowers are Lithodora ‘Heavenly Blue’, but beyond that, and the heathers, I’m not sure – alpines are not plants I’ve ever taken much interest in. I suspect there are some alpine phlox in there. They don’t seem to mind the dry weather.

We haven’t had any significant rain for many weeks. Added to that, it’s been mostly sunny, and there’s been a strong, desiccating wind (my OED says ‘desiccative’, but WordPress isn’t so fussy). Not the greatest conditions in which to be creating a new garden. I’ve been moving turf around to set out the beds and the grassy areas, but struggling to stop them drying up altogether. Watering has been a major job, particularly as most of the plants we brought with us are still in pots.

I’m ashamed to say I’ve lost a few, including a small cutting of a fig, some phlox (the border type, rather than alpine varieties), and a yellow bottlebrush/wattle called Melaleuca squarrosa, which was one of a few grown from seed brought back from Australia). The one we planted in our last garden was around seven feet tall by the time we left, but we don’t have any left now. Maybe that’s an excuse to go and buy some more seeds, if ever we’re allowed to travel again.

The plants we bought from Burncoose nursery are all in now, and seem to be hanging on, with regular watering. The buds of the two upright beech trees are swelling and elongating, and I’m looking forward to them opening. The six fruit trees in our mini orchard have been in for longer and are also doing okay. This is Malus (apple!) ‘James Grieve’…

In the raised bed at the end (which will eventually be moved later on in the implementation of my garden plan) we’ve already harvested some of the rhubarb, and the reset strawberry plants are beginning to flower among the rubble…

I’ve been cavalier in moving rhododendrons that were in the way, but they’re coming out now, and I have to admit they are impressive. I may try harder to accommodate them under, and among the structural trees and shrubs in the design. The rich red will really shine out from the understorey. I’m almost excited to see what colours some of the others will be. I hope they survive, though some will need to be moved again, once they’ve finished flowering, and our thin soil is going to need some significant bulking up with organic material if they are to really thrive.

I was initially delighted to discover we had soil that is so easy to work. But in the last few weeks, with the continuing dry, sunny, windy conditions, I’ve seen just how thin it is. The tractors working in the field have raised dust storms, and as I clear more areas of grass and weeds I’ve taken to covering the exposed soil, for fear it will all blow away. It really is a bit like the mid-west here. All we need is some tumble weed. On the plus side, I am looking forward to growing a range of different plants from those I’ve been used to. Echinacea, for instance, and heleniums, which typically didn’t last the winter in the heavy clay of our last garden. Broom seems to do very well here – we have three large plants in the garden, and they are all full of flower, giving off a distinctive, heady aroma. Who needs Chanel?

And the magnolia is finally in full flower. I’m not sure of the variety. Despite having plenty of flowers, it’s something of a disappointment. Magnolia flowers can be damaged by frost; normally it’s the ones that flower early that suffer most. Despite flowering late, many of the flowers on our magnolia are frost damaged, with brown, rotten patches. Those flowers that aren’t affected look good though.

Here’s the full picture…

Actually, it doesn’t look to bad from a distance. It needs some structural pruning to improve the shape. The stems are crossing and congested. There’s another job waiting to be done. I’ll let it finish flowering first.

text & images © graham wright

The Joy of a Plant Delivery

Eager to get the main structural plants for the garden in the ground and growing, we decided not to wait until the ground was prepared, but to order the plants straight away. Impetuous? Certainly. Foolhardy? Perhaps. We hope to be living in this house for the foreseeable future, so what’s the rush? We’ve already bought and planted the bare-rooted specimens – beech hedging, and six fruit trees for our mini orchard. A few days ago we received a delivery from Burncoose nursery

Actually, looking at the picture, it doesn’t look like that much! In fact, there’s the potential for a lot of plant material there. The plants were well packaged, arrived intact, and look like good, strong, healthy specimens. Two fastigiate (tall and thin!) beech trees (Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck’, and ‘Dawyck Purple’) will be tall focal points, giving the garden height, lush foliage, and great autumn colour. Two purple-leaved hazels (Corylus maxima ‘Purpurea’) will have large, dark leaves and can be coppiced every few years to provide hazel sticks for supporting beans, etc., or for fire wood. And, if we’re lucky, we might get some hazel nuts from them too.

A viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’) will become a large shrub with fresh green foliage, horizontally tiered branches (a bit like a wedding cake tree) and will be smothered in masses of white flowers each spring.

Cornus kousa var. chinensis will grow into a small, spreading tree, covered in large white flowers (in fact, they’re bracts – the flowers are tiny and at the centre of the circle of bracts). It also has good autumn colour, and will make a great focal point, viewed through the metal pergola we’ve just finished putting up…

Of course the pergola will need plants to climb over it. So we got ourselves started with a chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) which has dark flowers that smell of chocolate (hence the name).

Akebia quinata (photo courtesy of Crocus on-line nursery)

Clearing spaces in the borders where these plants will go is going to keep us busy for a while. Here’s a large patch we did earlier. There’s plenty more to do.

And to end on a prettier note; the Viburnum x burkwoodii we brought with us in a pot is full of flower at the moment. The fragrance is delicious…

text & photos (except akebia) © Graham Wright 2020

Couch Grass

I’m engaged in a battle with a wily, wiry enemy. Just how do you get rid of couch grass? Unfortunately, there’s no easy way. This is what it looks like…

These are the rhizomes (a few of which have produced leaves) of couch grass – latin name Elymus repens – lying on the surface after some frenzied digging by yours truly. The area of the garden where we’re creating the main border is run through with it, and we’ve been digging out great heaps of the stuff. The rhizomes creep along under the surface of the soil, building up a tangled and extensive network. Nodes at regular intervals along the rhizomes can push new clusters of grass up through the soil. Quite impressive, really. But not very helpful when you’re trying to cultivate a garden.

There are a number of approaches to take. Spraying with chemicals is increasingly seen as an unacceptable option. Glyphosate, the main ingredient of most (if not all) weed killers available to consumers, has been linked to cancer (though the big pharma companies are doing their best to hide all evidence) and only has a limited effect anyway. You’ll need to spray a number of times, leaving a few weeks between treatments, to get on top of it. You can cover affected areas, ideally with something that won’t let light through; something like thick black plastic. Okay for a bed with no other plants in it. But you’ll need to keep it covered for some time (i.e.; months, or even a year). And even then, you might not have killed it completely. And, of course, we should be using less plastic!

Digging is an option, and the one we’re using. This is the area I’m working on at the moment…

You have to be careful to get all the rhizomes out, because any you leave in the soil will re-grow. Realistically, it’s not possible to do this in one go. Our thin, sandy, dusty soil makes the process as easy as it could be, but it’s still hard work. There are cultivated plants in the bed too; these can be saved, but it’s harsh on them, because to remove all of the couch grass that’s grown in among their roots, you have to remove pretty much all of the soil around the roots. This is a time of year when you stand a good chance of the plants recovering from the shock. As we salvage plants they get put in a temporary position in our nursery bed. Ideally, having dug a bed over, you should leave it for a few weeks and then dig it over again to find the bits you missed, which may well have sprouted – giving themselves away to you. This time it should be much easier, as the soil should still be loose from the first digging over. But this is not an ideal world, and time is short, so we will probably take a chance and put in some of the plants straight away. This should work, but it will be critical to keep on top of the situation and dig out any couch grass as soon as the shoots appear.

One more option I’ve heard is to bury the stuff. This probably works best where it’s matted together to form turfs – in which case you would stand practically no chance of separating the grass from the soil anyway. The theory is that with couch grass, if you can bury it in a trench, and put a foot or so of soil on top, it will die through lack of light (a bit like the black plastic option). That sounds risky to me though. A safer option might be to cut the top few inches off and create a turf stack. Pile the turves up with the green sides together, and over time they rot down to form good quality topsoil. Here’s one I prepared earlier…

In fact this is made from standard turves, without any couch (hopefully!) The canes and string are marking out the design for the garden. These turves are in what will eventually be a border. I dug a pit so that the stack is partially buried – it’s best to exclude light where possible. And I can make use of the topsoil that would otherwise be under the stack. After six months to a year you can go through the heap and remove any perennial weeds that haven’t rotted. In the worst case, if you’ve made a stack with couch grass turves and the couch rhizomes haven’t rotted, at least the problem weeds are collected together in the one place, rather than being spread all over your plot!

With couch grass, as with most weeds, it’s a war of attrition – by keeping at it you’re constantly reducing the weed population, and weakening those that you don’t destroy completely. In time, you should get the situation under control. But even then, don’t turn you back on it for too long – you may win some glorious battles, but in the long run, you’ll never win a war against nature…

Text & images © Graham Wright 2020

Gardening – cure for the corona virus blues?

As we’re entering a period when our lives are about to become more restricted than most of us have ever known, getting out into the garden could be our salvation.

It’s a difficult time. Many of us will have to work from home (that’s if we’ve still got a job). There’ll be no more going out to pubs, cafes, restaurants. No more cinema or theatre. No organised sports, either to watch or take part in. The internet will probably be overwhelmed, but you can only take so much screen time anyway. We could spend all our spare time watching TV, if there’s still access to Netflix, etc., but that’s not exactly good for you (again; you can only take so much screen time). Boredom could reach dangerous levels as we all steadily go stir crazy.

The answer – the way to free ourselves from the tyranny of enforced seclusion – is to get out into the fresh air, under the big, open sky, and to get gardening. It’s the perfect time:

– The long dark corridor of winter is coming to an end and we’re going into spring, so the weather is right (we’ve had some lovely days already this year);
– It’s safe; there’s no danger of the virus being transmitted over the garden fence;
– There’s plenty to do in the garden at this time of year;
– Gardening is great physical exercise, and has been proved to have psychological benefits too (Think you’re more of a city person and you don’t like plants? Think again – your sub-conscious mind knows better!)

Don’t have a garden yourself? Do you have a neighbour who has, and would appreciate some help – maybe a neighbour who’s elderly, or disabled? There’s no need for contact – they can leave the side gate open, and chat to you at a distance, perhaps through a first floor window. They get their garden done, and some arms-length social contact, you get out, get some exercise and fresh air. Maybe you can grow produce in their garden, and share it with them? Why not do some community gardening; transform that piece of waste ground with your neighbours (organised via social media, and carried out one person at a time, in shifts)? Try your hand at guerilla gardening.

Want some ideas of what to do in the garden? Order some seeds (mail order – no physical contact);

Dig up some of the lawn to create more flower beds;

Or turn over the whole of your lawn to growing fruit and veg, ready for when the shops run out of food;

Plant hedges. Make them prickly – pyracantha, holly or berberis to keep the marauding hordes at bay (or at least, to hide your veg patch from envious neighbours). Or maybe we should be kind, and share our produce with the community);

Let what’s left of your lawn grow into a wildflower meadow – beautiful, very much ‘on-trend’ and we can’t afford to waste precious petrol or electricity cutting grass anymore.

So, don’t go mad – get gardening, and stay safe. And keep away from crows and magpies – you don’t want to get the Corvid virus

text & images © Graham Wright 2020

Up the Garden Path

This is the back garden as it was mid December last year, when we moved in, laid mostly to lawn, and dominated by a straight central path cutting the space in two.

We’ve got a working plan now. It isn’t quite finalised, but I’m confident it’s close enough that we can prepare the ground where the trees will go before it’s too late to get them in. Trees are generally much cheaper when bought bare rooted, but this can only be done in the dormant season, and they have to be planted within a few days of being lifted out of the ground. The path had to go. Here it is after I was half way through taking it out (taken 25th Feb):

The bed on the left is also going, so I’ve been taking the plants out and moving them to the nursery bed.

Work has been progressing smoothly, as and when I can fit it in. As you can see here, the chickens have wasted no time in annexing the bare earth as a dust bath:

This was the state of play as of 7th March, with all of the concrete and gravel removed, and the paving slabs left loose for the time being, so we have something to walk on:

I had hoped the slabs and gravel were laid on membrane over compacted soil, but I was to be disappointed. It’s been a long time since the old pick axe has seen that much action, and I’m left with a huge amount of rubble that will need to be removed at some point (I may be able to use some of it under paths and patios elsewhere).

You may just have noticed we’ve planted some trees in the grass. The design I came up with has a mini orchard, set with six fruit trees – 2 apples, 2 pears, a plum and a damson. I’m aiming to turn the grass into wild flower meadow, with a mown path curving through the trees to a patio at the end, under the large birch tree. In total so far we’ve planted 9 trees, and 100 hedging plants. And there will be more to come.

I’ll sign off, for now, with this month’s centrefold; the lovely Lola, sprawled on a bed. Calm yourselves…

Text & Images © Graham Wright 2020

Nursery Beds

Most gardening books say you should live with a new garden for a full year before making changes. Until you’ve seen the garden in every season you won’t know exactly what you’ve got. It’s good advice as far as it goes, but frustrating when you want to get going on re-designing and replanting.

Plants take time to establish – particularly trees and shrubs. A year of doing nothing is a year added to the time you have to wait for trees to become more than sticks; shrubs more than a foot tall – another year before you’ll be picking apples, plums, pears; another year away from getting privacy from neighbours, from screening an ugly view, or providing shelter from a prevailing wind. It may be good advice, but in practice, it’s advice most of us won’t follow.

Late winter/early spring is when most bulbs begin to show themselves. In our new garden we’ve been delighted to see clumps of snowdrops (Galanthus) appearing. Had we been able to start rebuilding the garden in the autumn we wouldn’t have known they were there. But there again, if you dig carefully you should notice even small bulbs like snowdrops in the soil. Even if you’re not able to identify them, you can always pop them into a spare corner and see what they turn into.

This is just one of the advantages of creating a garden yourself, rather than employing landscape contractors, who are unlikely to have the time or the inclination to go to the trouble. When you re-build and re-plant a garden yourself it tends to be a transitional process. If you intend to re-use materials like paving slabs and gravel, you need somewhere to pile them up until you’re ready to re-use them. For plants, you need a nursery bed – a clear area of soil that can provide a temporary home for plants that need to be moved, but which you don’t have a permanent position for just yet. As we’re preparing and marking out the new design we can move the snowdrops, along with daffodils, tulips, etc. into the nursery bed, where they can stay until we can find permanent positions for them.

But what else to keep? Deciduous shrubs are not always easy to identify without their leaves, and many perennials have nothing at all showing above ground at this time of year, which means they can be easily missed. But unless the previous owners were exceptionally tidy, there’s usually some dead material from last year’s growth hanging around to give you a clue.

Evergreens, of course, are easy, as they still have their leaves. Rhododendrons are not my favourite plants, particularly as they struggle in most gardens (unless you happen to have moist, acid soil with lots of organic material in it). But this one is showing lots of juicy flower buds, so I’m sure we can find somewhere for it. At the moment it’s in a slate-mulched island bed, but our new design has this area as a mini orchard, with wildflower meadow. So it can go into the nursery bed for now. Along with…

This evergreen Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald & Gold’?) may need to be moved too. They make good space fillers, brightening up dark areas even in winter. You can see it’s reverted in places, producing solid green leaves rather than variegated. This will need to be cut out. And…

I’ll cut this rose right back before digging it out with as much of the roots as I can. I think it’s a yellow variety, and has been very healthy (though as you’d expect, it’s been hit by the weather recently). With little sign of rose black spot, it’s definitely worth hanging on to.

There’s more in the garden than it would appear at first glance, such as this large patch of Lithadora (probably ‘Heavenly Blue’), a plant that didn’t want to know in our last garden, but which has beautiful, vibrant, true blue flowers – a real asset to a garden.

I’m happy to see that foxgloves (Digitalis) seem happy to self-seed freely all over the garden. These free plants will come in useful for filling the gaps while the garden is getting established.

Starting work on a new garden can be difficult in the winter. So far we’ve been lucky with the weather. It’s been relatively mild, and often not too wet or too frosty to dig. But you never know at this time of year. If today is anything to go by we could might not be getting out there too often…

text & photos © Graham Wright 2020

Progress!

Last time, I posted a photo of our front ‘garden’, showing how we’d just begun to clear the thick covering of gravel to reveal the earth that once supported a garden. I’m happy to be able to report that the gravel is gone (well, almost, and only in the front garden – the bad news is there’s more in the back!) This is how it looks now…

And this is how it looked at the time of my last post…

We’ve put in two trees. The first is a Sorbus aucuparia ‘Eastern Promise’ (Rowan), which comes with a bit of a story. It looked very healthy, and came in a very large pot. It wasn’t until we took it out of the pot that we discovered it had next to no roots! It was obviously field grown. They’d lifted it (very badly; hence the lack of root) and put it in a large pot, and sold it as if it was pot grown. The tree is about 10 feet tall, with lots of juicy buds ready to break in the spring. I don’t hold out that much hope of it growing some roots in time to support that top growth.

Still, I don’t like to throw plants away, so I put it in and staked it well, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed. I complained to the garden centre we bought it from, and the good news is, they gave us a full refund. Who knows, the tree may even pull through, in which case we’ll have got it for nothing. Talking about getting plants for free; the other tree is a sapling of a field maple (Acer campestre) which set seed in our last garden. We potted it up and took it with us. Field maple is a small native tree, typically found in hedgerows, but attractive, and with good autumn colour.

The Field Maple – hopefully the chicken wire should deter any rabbits or deer that might think about having a nibble.

And we’ve planted a beech hedge along the front and side boundary. It doesn’t look much at the moment, but give it time. One hundred bare-rooted beech plants, mostly for the front garden, with some for a short stretch of boundary at the back. It’s the best way to buy deciduous plants. They’re field grown, and lifted during the dormant season, bagged up in bunches and sent off to the customer (in this case, us). There’s generally no soil around the roots when you get them, but they’re wrapped up in a big plastic bag, which conserves enough moisture to stop the roots drying out too much. Current thinking is that buying plants bare-rooted is more sustainable, because there are no plastic pots involved. It’s a shame about the plastic sacks they came in, but that’s probably a lot better than 100 plastic pots. It’s a cheap way of creating a hedge too – these worked out at 95p a plant.

In the spring, we’ll sow some grass – possibly wildflower meadow – to green up the rest of the space. So that’s the front garden dealt with for now. Next comes the back…

text and images © Graham Wright 2020

A New Challenge…

I started this blog to share some of the ideas, experiences and knowledge I’ve gained as a professional gardener. But having given up professional gardening, for the time being at least, does that mean the Pulling Weeds blog is at an end? Not necessarily. Having just moved house, I’ve taken on a new, larger garden. It’s got a lot of gravel and lawned areas, and not nearly enough planting. My plan is to redesign it; to create something special. And I intend to share the process through this blog.

I say ‘I’ – it will actually be a project shared between myself and my wife, Julie (it’s her garden as much as mine). This time I won’t be the only one pulling weeds!

This is what the garden looks like now, on a cold winter’s day. The planting is limited, with big expanses of grass.

The garden is dominated by a large, mature birch tree at the end. There are dead trunks of two others, one right in the centre and one to the side of the house.

There are some plants worth keeping; quite a few rhododendrons, and this magnolia. It looks mature, despite it’s diminutive stature, so probably a stellata. The buds are already swollen, ready to burst into flower in the spring.

The Rhodies all seem to have lots of buds – I’m looking forward to a colourful show in May.

As you can see from the above, a lot of the beds have been mulched with slate chippings, leaving the plants as isolated individuals in a slatey beach. There are a lot of clumps of ox-eye daisies, which need either splitting or, more likely, removing (the flowers are pretty, but the plants don’t really earn their keep). The weeding clearly hasn’t been kept up with, and some of the shrubs and perennials have been overcome by couch grass. Fortunately the soil is quite sandy, so the digging is easy.

There’s a fair sized pond – deep, too – which was used for keeping expensive fish (all of which left with the previous owners). The rockery and waterfall at the back will have to go, along with the extensive paraphernalia (2 barrel sized filters hidden behind the rockery, a powerful water-blower-cum-filter thing hanging from the bridge, and a large pump on the bottom). The levels need sorting out. There’s an overflow pipe which is keeping the water level well below the rim. Hopefully we can keep the pond, but make it look more natural – turn it into a wildlife pond. The rather twee bridge will probably have to go.

There’s an awful lot of gravel and paving in the garden, and to my mind, it’s taking up valuable planting space – most of it will have to go.

Talking of gravel…

This is the front garden (if you can call it a garden). It’s our first challenge, and as you can see, we’ve already made a start (does anyone want a lorry load of gravel?) The last residents used it as a parking lot, but google images shows me there was once a garden where the gravel is now. The vehicles have left the soil badly compacted, so it will need a good digging over. I’ll let you know how we get on (does anyone know a good chiropractor?)…

Text & images © Graham Wright 2020

The End of an Era?

I’ve been gardening professionally for ten years, first in Buxton, Derbyshire and then, from 2010, in Penarth, in the Vale of Glamorgan. But just before Xmas I moved up to North Shropshire, and I’ve hung up my boots, for the time being at least. I’ve been very fortunate to have had some lovely customers, and I’m sad to have left them behind, but there you are; nothing can last forever. In the end, as the poet (Shelley) said, ‘nought remains but mutability’.

My sadness at moving away from my customers is tempered by the knowledge that I’ll be much closer to my family. But I do have a dilemma – what do I do next? I could try to get new customers where I’m living now. But I’m not getting any younger, and I’ve been finding it tough gardening full-time. I’m just over half way through a post-graduate diploma in garden design. My first priority, while I’ve got some time on my hands, is to get that finished and see if I can get work as a garden designer – ideally freelance.

In the mean time I will need to get a part-time job to make ends meet. Maybe I’ll do some gardening. Maybe I’ll try something else. I’ve spent the majority of my working life in an office environment; I might try to get a part-time office job. After working outside in the elements I rather fancy that; nice and warm and safe (although I remember those paper cuts used to smart a bit). That’s if I can find a job. It isn’t easy these days, and not having been in that environment for a decade is likely to work against me. And then there’s my age. It shouldn’t be a problem, but I know that ageism is rife in the workplace.

But if I’m no longer gardening for a living, is that the end of Pulling Weeds? Not necessarily. In moving, I’ve taken on a new challenge. But that’s for next time…

Text & images © Graham Wright 2019