10 November 2011

Keep Britain Tidy

Gardening can be like housework and for those of a tidy bent, this is a frantically busy time of year. Leaves must be removed from pathways, and they must be removed from steps. Yesterday I managed to turn the 'wild garden' at Brooke Hall into a kind of sitting room, and very tidy it was too. In a garden of 13 acres it would be demented to get over-concerned about tidiness in all areas, but still the leaves must be dealt with. It's really a matter of 'keeping the leaves on the move' as the head gardener puts it, and not allowing their accumulation to kill whatever is trying to survive underneath. The best way to do this is by blowing them away. Hoovering does happen, but in smaller parts of the garden. Even then it feels like a ludicrous thing to do, vacuuming around box parterres, underneath pleached limes which are surrounded by beech hedges. Whose insane planting plan was this? Didn't they think about all the leaves?

In order to master the fine art of blowing, certain rules must be observed. Never make a leaf pile. We don't use rakes, and we don't pick up piles of leaves either. Leaves must be blown to an appropriate place, either under bushes, or out into a neighbouring field. Pushing leaves under dense or unwieldy shrubs like the gunnera above, can feel like sweeping dust under the carpet. Too much volume, too little cover. Flower beds with hardy perennials in them are not much good for smothering either. If blowing into an adjacent field it is important to blow carefully over the top of whatever leaves are already there, spreading all the leaves out in a considerate manner. Piles of leaves would act like parting waves when approached by a machine. Evenly spread leaves on the other hand can be crunched into instant mulch by a ride-on mower. Underneath the many trees at Brooke Hall are circles of brown, which comprise bite-sized leaves ready for the breaking down process. 

It's a feast for worms. Sometimes, while pushing debris around, bigger leaves with pointy ends can stick determinedly into the ground. Despite the use of engine-powered equipment from Germany which I have been trained to operate at full throttle, it's a happy thought that the leaf is already being pulled quite a long way underground, and that there is an earthworm at the other end, holding on tight.


  1. Those leaves look like some sort of Christo installation.

  2. Hard labour v art. It all depends on the spin and I'll take the latter, thanks.