After spending the best part of two days pruning an overgrown buddleia the size of a small house, I like to remember what it’s all about – big purple blooms, smelling of honey and covered in butterflies.
I’ve just had a second bitterly cold session pruning the rose that arches over the steps and I still haven’t finished.
I’m hoping to achieve something like the glory in the photo.
None of the roses were pruned last year because I wasn’t there. This one in particular needs a lot of care and attention.
This is the every-other-year apricot tree in full blossom regalia, exuding a delicious blossomy scent.
I took the photo just before it was subjected to vicious wind and driving rain.
The bumblebees, which seem to be primary pollinators, will be tucked up in their nests. Even without being un-aerodynamic they wouldn’t stand a chance, so I hope we get some still and sunny days soon.
I’ve almost finished pruning the fruit trees – just a few exotics to go: a jujube tree which has only fruited once, a persimmon tree, two bushes, and some plum ‘scrub’ across the front edge by the house.
Then it’s on to the roses and the buddleias!
Clive sat on a bench by the patio door while I was at it today – his first time properly out of doors. I realised afterwards his view of what I was up to was partly blocked by the wall. The idea had been for us to keep each other company, but for much of the time all he could see was branches and twigs mysteriously toppling!
Only the love of pruning could keep me in the orchard today – not even the duty by itself.
The wind is like a steel blade, slicing you through the midriff.
I’m pruning two trees a day so as hopefully to finish within February. Today it was the big apricot (arguably the finest tree in the orchard) and the nashi (oriental pear) next to it. One difficult and one easy.
I had a lot of sawing and lopping to do above my head for the apricot, while the nashi branches are comfortably accessible.
If our Tunisian handiman were doing this, he’d make much faster progress, but I don’t miss him. He wanted reliable work when he phoned at the beginning of last October, and I said we could offer it if he helped me with Clive at the beginning (setting up contraptions and aids so he could manoeuvre himself about). He declined and we haven’t heard from him since. Such is the wintry blast of illness and disability.
So I bash on, queen of the garden.
The photo is a close-up of a nashi bud which is so far advanced that it’s actually showing little frills of leaf. The shot went horribly wrong because I had to hold the twig to stop it dancing in the wind, but I rather like it as it is!
Pruning a tree, I find, is all-consuming. I walk round it, trying to see how to give it balance and grace.
In Italy, pretty much all fruit trees are trained to the wine glass shape, variously described also as vase, goblet, or open centre shaped.
It’s a truly lovely shape, as well as being practical for the tree (allowing light and air to pass through) and for fruit-picking.
The Reinette du Canada apple tree in the picture has a long trunk and ambitions to be tall, but year by year it’s being made more wine glass shaped and accessible.
It has a defiant air, though, somewhat accentuated by the little tuft of leaves – unique in the whole orchard at this time – sticking up above the rest of the tree like a flag. Or a stirrer in a wine glass!
It got trimmed, of course.
One of the good things about pruning is treading on a carpet of speedwell.
It grows round the boles of the trees where we put cow manure so maybe it was introduced by it – or just likes it.
The open flower in the photo – Common Field-Speedwell – was the last one in the patch to close before dusk yesterday.
Like Scarlet Pimpernel, speedwell is supposed to predict the weather. Apparently it closes when it’s going to rain the next day, but I find it difficult to see how such a long reach is possible, especially since it closes for the night in between.
I think it must be more a flower of the moment.