These first weeks of winter it's been fun to relax and enjoy the garden in decay, lots of browns and yellows and tawny-greys, and the greens are more of a grey-green in June. Yet even now the Galanthus are easing up through the fallen dry leaves. All through July they will be flowering. The Snowdrops (in the shot above) are G. elwesii, most of them originally from the Genet family in Gembrook.* We find elwesii and its later flowering smaller cousin, G. nivalis, pretty easy and from just a handful or two of bulbs 25 years ago we now have tens of thousands. Indeed for several years we have been moving them 'in the green', as they say, away from under our two big weeping maples to other places in the garden. Especially to under the triclor and fernleaf beeches below the summer house. This is quite an extensive area and the snowdrops are beginning to do it proud as they pop up through the coppery-brown leaf mould. And for the last several years our lyrebirds have been doing a fabulous job redistributing the Galanthus around this slope in that casually natural way promoted by Edna Walling when she recommended throwing potatoes backwards over one's shoulder.
The big job for the last few days has been renovating our hornbeam hedges each side of the pond. Last winter the top 2.5 metres of these were removed and it was very exciting (and a relief) to see thousands of buds burst away from the centre of the trees responding to sunshine onto their newly exposed bark in the spring. In fact new buds broke from the old bark at the tops of the hedges much faster than existing buds burst away from the twigs along the faces of these hedges. Many trees such as hornbeam are not happy with sunshine onto bare bark of course. Summer sun can scorch and even kill bark. One not-so-minor purpose of leaves is to act as an umbrella. All the same, the alacrity with which the Carpinus betulis buds exploded away from old trunks that had had a chainsaw used on them removing their top-growth just weeks earlier was positively awe-inspiring. Nature knows what she is about.
So this winter it has been the turn of the growth, 26 year's worth, on the outer faces of these hedges. Next winter it will be the inner faces. I must admit, it has been very tempting to tackle both at once and have done with it. But patience is the greatest of virtues in gardening. Best not to overstress the plants - just in case!
The video above shows Cloudehill's new gardener, Adam Edwards, busily doing a very nice job. Indeed as one might expect from someone who was perhaps destined for the job! For anyone in the Toorak/Malvern part of the world, you might occasionally spot our previous gardener, Mitch, whistling from backyard to backyard with a team working in some rather high-end gardens. And he is much closer to his home on the beach, a little way down the bay from Brighton.
Adam, in his spare time, is a drummer in a band that pops up occasionally around the traps. Now, as I was taking photos, I was momentarily outwitted by Valerie's genius of a smartphone and (somehow) managed to take some movie footage (you might even be able to catch Valerie calling out "I think you might be taking a movie" on the soundtrack! However the footage also handsomely demonstrates a few moments of Adam's hedge-pruning technique - which surely derives from the hours and hours and hours he has spent busily behind a drum kit. Or possibly that he has been pruning hedges for quite some time and knows what he's about!
Note - Checking the spelling of G. elwesii with Mr Google (which amazingly I had right first time) G. Grumpy popped into view. Checking the image, sure enough, G. elwesii Grumpy has a very sad and grumpy face. Have a look!
Come along, enjoy the show, winter is amazing in the garden!
Below: A shot of mine of Adam's very neatly cut hedge, heavily inspired by Claire Takacs's work at Cloudehill.