When people know you’re a gardener, every social event turns into some sort of question time. I’m sure doctors have it worse. I mean no-one’s trying to show me their bunion or ‘an irritating rash that just won’t go’ but the queries still come thick and fast.
Wisteria is a popular one and, in case you wondered, yes, it does need very careful training or it will climb to the top of your chimney in about half an hour no I wouldn’t plant one unless it was on a west facing wall, yes you need to prune it twice a year and no, I wouldn’t grow one in a pot. There. That’s that covered.
The other one is about when to prune box. I’m not actually sure if people really want to now the answer of if it’s simply a chance to get all Carry On Up The Garden with questions about ‘trimming my bush’. However, giving them the benefit of the doubt the answer I usually give is ‘Derby Day’ and then again in late August.
Of course that is a total lie. Everyone knows the real answer about when to prune box hedging is ‘just before you need to show off your garden’. In fact it’s very similar to spring cleaning, which my eldest brother accurately relabelled ‘parent cleaning’ as it was always tied to the arrival of the people rather than the season.
I have just proved my own point by spending a chunk of Monday taking the hedge trimmer to the box which lines the edges of all six of my ornamental raised beds. Because yes, I am hosting the start of our village’s Open Garden Safari on Friday and I need my garden to up its game.
My 12-year-old son eyed the machinery with interest, obviously keen to have a go, but I am not falling for that one. You see my father does the same thing. “I’ll do that for you” sounds incredibly generous. Indeed it looks very generous as he crafts and cajoles the messy hedges and topiary into geometric masterpieces.
And then he’ll hand you back the hedge trimmer with a self-satisfied look. “All done!”
“NO IT IS NOT!” is what I silently scream in my head. And why? Because for every hour he has spent cutting the hedges I will spend two clearing up the mess. If you didn’t already know, box leaves are pretty small, bright green and get everywhere. And I mean everywhere.
And so now I do it myself because I have a fool proof technique. I use a sheet.
It’s a well worn item. For a start it’s peach-coloured which clearly dates it as a relic from my mid-80s unfortunate ‘grey and pastel’ phase of interior design. After years as a ‘guest sheet if desperate’, it was moved down the pecking order to ‘paint sheet’ and finally landed up in the shed only to be reborn as a ‘hedge helper’.
It is the perfect solution. I stick one long edge under the base of the hedge and let the rest stretch out to catch stray clippings. It works just as effectively around box balls as the material is flexible enough to mould to any shape. And when you’re done you simply fold in the long edges to capture the cuttings, roll it up to an easy to lift ball and then unroll it over the compost or in the green bin.
Not that I’m going to explain this at a drinks party any time soon. ‘Derby Day and late August’ is a far quicker answer and allows me to carry on my fascinating conversation with the doctor.