October

A summer of shows and so many around the Roseland! It never ceases to amaze me how many shows we can support in such a small area and we display with pride everything from crafts to eggs to onions, leeks and the tallest sunflowers in Veryan. Even better, so many of us don’t do it for the prizes, just for the pride and a willingness to join in. So feel very, very sorry for the lady who displayed 5 stems of parsley instead of six, for the man who put a top on his flan – both disqualified for not following the rules. The Show committees however could look carefully at their class designations and descriptions, they do become out of date and blurred and be absolutely specific about what they are asking you to display. That of course won’t help the parsley or the flan! For example,’3 hens eggs, for shape, any colour’. Does that mean three of any colour being judged for shape? Apparently not, the colours had to be as close as possible. And why 3 eggs for quality when the judge only cracks one? Beats me…

I was faced with a huge dilemma when judging at one Show, the class said ‘one rose’(note, not one stem) so did that mean disqualifying 4 out of 5 which had a rose head and a bud, well strictly speaking yes it did but that left the 5th which was not the best head. I therefore took a way out and judged them all on the basis that if a child had entered and was disqualified they may never do so again and it is the youngsters we must encourage to participate. So the judging criteria went out of the window. These are village shows and whilst we need to bring standards up all the time we must not discourage. Interestingly too, some of the Shows are restricted entry to residents of the Parish and some have special classes only for residents. That’s a good move as there are some specialists who go from show to show and pick up the prizes, but that’s a good thing also as it shows us all what to aim for. If there was a weekend free in the calendar I bet a whole Roseland Show would be a huge event, or is that covered by ‘Veryan and District ‘ and would it spoil the very local shows? Probably.

A new topic, hedges! In the garden of my childhood we had a yew hedge topped with topiary figures that ranged from chickens to spirals and hoops. Strictly speaking my father insisted that the chicken was a pheasant but his hedge cutting skills never convinced me.

The hedge from the ground to the base of the topiary was about 5ft and some of the fantastic designs on the top reached to another 3-4ft and were carefully tended by my father twice a year with a little judicious trimming as the odd piece grew out of place. Dad prescribed to the view that we do not own a garden; we are merely its custodians for the period that we are residing there. This memorable yew hedge had been planted in 1910, was in its frosted glory when we arrived in that shocking winter of 1963. The last of my family members left in 2001 and I was mortified to hear that the new owners had removed it recently, just before its one hundredth birthday. I considered that an act of vandalism bordering on the criminal but these ‘custodians’ will get their just desserts as they failed to see why parts of that garden thrived so well – the rose garden was flourishing in the protection of that hedge and is now succumbing to the wind and weather. So, in devastating (in my opinion) an antique feature of the garden they have ended up decimating a much larger part.

I was reminded of that hedge recently as we supplied six 7ft yew trees for a local garden. The ground had been beautifully prepared, the holes dug to take a huge root ball and good rich compost put into the holes for the trees to get a good start and to retain water. The hedge, which will cover an ugly block wall, could be there for many years and because the plants are so mature it will look as if it has been there for a long time. Needless to say this is an instant but very expensive way to create a hedge. The bigger the plant the greater the cost because we all pay for growing time and whilst not as slow as you may believe yew is not the fastest.

With yet another warm and wet summer which has decimated the last of the older escallonia hedges we have not been surprised by the number of people that are looking to replace garden hedges and many have set ideas as to the variety they want having seen them growing elsewhere. Two years ago much further east in the county we planted a griselinia hedge, plain green littoralis variety, on top of a new Cornish hedge wall. The length of this hedge stretching down a local main road had instant impact as you came upon it round a bend and suddenly everybody wanted the same. Whilst the hedge we planted was appropriate and the owners’ choice I was horrified to see the fuchsia and pittosporum hedges in nearby gardens being ripped up and replaced with the griselinia. Suddenly a beautiful Cornish road with a variety of native deciduous hedging plus the fuchsia and pittosporum began to look more like a suburban estate. Whilst my advice might always be that when choosing plants it is worth looking to see what grows well locally don’t be tempted to copy it regardless of the local impact.

But all that said, now is the time to look at choosing a new hedge and to prepare the ground for planting. I have explained before that shrubs and trees can be bought in three ways.

1) Container grown – these are plants literally grown as cuttings or from seed and moved from one pot to another until they are in their final size. They are fed, nurtured and raised in exactly the right medium for their requirements. The result is a superb plant that can be planted at any time, but the labour involved is intensive and the plant once two or three years old and ready to plant will not be cheap, typical average £4-5 retail for 2-3ft hedging plant and when you may want a vast quantity this all adds up to an expensive hedge ,despite discount for bulk.
2) Containerised – these plants are lifted, usually in the autumn when dormant and are put into a container. For some plants this is ok if they are not in the container too long and are not huge but you will find plants that have been lifted and containerised that don’t look to happy and then get a bit fed up when you try and replant them.
3) Bare root – And here I finally get to the point of this article!! From November until March you will be able to buy hedging plants with bare root balls which are lifted from the ground to order. They are often whips if native hedging and can look like a dead stem, but don’t be fooled, or they can be quite mature plants. The point of them is that they are field grown, usually by hedging specialists are lifted whilst dormant and consequently the labour involved has been minimal. Thus you will be able to buy hedging plants for about a £1 each or less for more common varieties making a 100ft hedge a little cheaper than you might have expected.

Not all hedging plants can be lifted. Beech, laurel, hornbeam, hawthorn, and holly to name a few are suitable but griselinia has to be pot grown along with some other varieties.

However, words of warning, some of the less reputable members of society have cottoned on to this and there are many adverts on line from ‘growers’ who are selling on or not lifting properly. Use a reputable company that somebody else can recommend to you, and beware of hidden costs such as delivery charges, VAT added as an afterthought and extra charges for small quantities. Somebody I spoke to recently had bought, unnecessarily, way out of county and paid almost as much for delivery as her hedge.

And don’t forget that the ground is still quite warm and you can plant all the new herbaceous and perennial plants for the border and still split clumps that have become too large. I much prefer planting now rather than the spring because all you are doing now is asking a plant to put roots down, get used to the new position and sit out the winter. In spring you are asking for it to grow, roots, shoots, leaves and flowers and necessarily your plant will not be as strong. Common sense really but gardening often is!

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