It’s a Jungle Out There

30 May

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I do like pottering around in the garden. Living in the sky in Abu Dhabi gives me very little chance, however. The only living bit of green that enters the apartment is a pot of supermarket basil and that only survives a few days in the air-conditioning. So my return to the UK does give me chance to get my hands dirty. And feet wet, as it turned out.

Our garden, though minuscule, was once beautifully designed but has long since been taken back to basics and is desperately in need of lots of love and attention. It never gets it. Although I was able to spend some time on it last year, doing something constructive for a change, it was largely about slowing down the inevitable advancement of nature. That is, I dug up a lot of weeds, chucked a lot of bark chippings around and planted a few cheap plants in the hope of “ground cover”. I also tried to nurse the patch of unrestrained dandelions into something like a lawn.

I don’t know if you would have called it a lawn a week ago. Sure, it was green and oh so lush with remarkably few blow-ball seedheads waving at me. But at some 18 inches high the definition of “lawn” is probably pushing it. The bark had been more successful although the pernicious, sticky goosegrass had started to take a hold again. Prominent in all this, however, in every crevice and gap, flourishing copiously on the patio, was rosebay willowherb. Initially such a pretty weed with its pinky stems and profusion of small magenta flowers, it soon spouts long seedheads that manage to take hold in the most inhospitable of places. Just where you don’t want them.

In the midst of all this lurks a tiny little pond. Where once, to my shame, goldfish swam, in recent years it has become the home to a family of frogs, their wriggling offspring preventing me from clearing out all the dead leaves that accumulated over winter. Not this year. Now a stagnant and foul-smelling stew of slimy mould, no self respecting amphibians would come anywhere near.

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Alright, I like a bit of a challenge. First the patio to cull the willowherb before it produced seeds. These are pretty shallow rooted so not too onerous. Then the goosegrass, again before it produces its velcro seed balls. Easy to pull up but you know the roots are lurking beneath the soil ready to spring out again when your back is turned.
The grass had to wait for a day sunny enough to dry it out but eventually I just had to go for it. The poor old mower had a struggle, quickly becoming clogged, its bucket filling every 30 seconds or so. And muggins here was the one emptying it. Oh my aching back.

It wasn’t the pain and effort that nearly made me give up, though. It was that skulking, malodorous pond, hiding away, its sides slippery and indistinct. Yes, you’ve guessed it. I was soon thigh deep in foul stuff and in a mood to match. Yuk!

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