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September 2008

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A stray bullock, moving rose bushes and ‘Rijnveld's Early Sensation'

One very unwelcome visitor to the garden this past summer was a young bullock from the adjoining field. It had managed to get over the barbed wire fence, at the bottom corner, on to the ever-rising compost heap - aka mountain of weeds - and then into the garden. We had been away all day and I realised what had happened when I was doing my usual evening tour to see how many weeds had shot up in my absence. No animal psychologist could have described the bullock as anally retentive because there was a trail of cowpats on every path!

In one bed there is a bare patch in summer that is thickly planted with winter and spring bulbs. Nature abhors a vacuum: so do hungry bullocks. In the middle of this bare patch was a huge dinner plate - even platter-sized - cowpat. In his wanderings round the main garden he had chomped down the golden grass Carex hachijoensis, Hemerocallis ‘Golden Chimes' and the three best specimens of Allium ‘Globemaster'. I suppose these last added a touch of onion-flavoured piquancy to the other plant flavours. In the white garden he devoured the white-flowered schizostylis and broke off five stems of Lilium longiflorum (shown). He was obviously an animal of very discerning tastes and didn't go near the downmarket stackyard. The trail of cowpats then led to the greenhouse where, presumably in a fit of temper, he head-butted four panes of glass and broke them.

The very worst thing he did was to eat half of one of the three plants of Agapanthus ‘Nigel Marshall' which I have only had since the spring. This agapanthus has been named after Nigel Marshall by a Scottish nursery. Nigel, for many years, was head gardener at Mount Stewart in Co. Down. When I started gardening he was my mentor so I just had to have plants named after him even though they were very expensive. Thankfully the agapanthus has since put on new growth.

The bullock didn't eat any roses but he tramped down the hybrid musk rose ‘Cornelia' and I had to remove several broken branches. Actually this was no bad thing because the warm pink blooms clashed hideously with the neighbouring tall, vivid magenta Geranium psilostemon. In late autumn I'm going to move ‘Cornelia' to another border with roses in a similar shade of pink where it will replace one that died. Doing this used to spell certain death to the transplanted rose because of rose replant sickness. With the availability of Rootgrow, this no longer happens. It is friendly mycorrhizal fungi that enables plants to grow a secondary root system which feeds them with nutrients and water drawn from the soil for the rest of their lives. I used it last spring when I moved two magnolias from other parts of the garden to where the unloved leyland cypress hedge had been. They seem to be thriving. Touch wood!

Autumn is my least favourite time of year and I overcome this by focussing on spring - the apex of my year - and planting rather a lot of bulbs. The ex-leyland hedge border is going to have a hundred ‘Rijnveld's Early Sensation' daffodils planted in it. These are quite ordinary big trumpet daffodils but they flower in January and February which is immensely cheering. The wholesale firm from which I buy most bulbs his listed them this year, for the first, and they're about a third of the price of those from other sources - http://www.peternyssen.com/




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