Mention of paths last week reminded me of one of the wisest bits of advice that I ever received. It was from a guy called Geoff Brooks, sadly no longer with us. Well, it wasn’t actually advice, but an example of applying a bit of simple common sense to an age-old problem. I am reminded of it every morning at my desk as I see the mums with kids, the older ones on their own, making their way past our road-end to school.
The pram-pushers and little ones use the designated path, but the next lot – the P6-7 youngsters – take shortcuts involving climbing over fences with a strand of barbed wire in there somewhere.
So where is the relevance to my opening remark? Geoff was in charge of landscaping within the new Pollock Halls facility for students at Edinburgh University.
As he progressed from the planning to the implementation stage, it was noted that there were no designated internal paths. Remember, this was a new layout, just like the housing estate around us. Geoff knew that the students would have to find their way to and from accommodation, to and from lecture theatres, to and from the catering facilities and they would take the shortest possible route.
So, he sat and watched as the paths started to be beaten out over the ground with constant traffic. Then he put in the proper paths precisely where they were needed, with a nudge here and there to accommodate the overall landscape plan. The areas of open space where he didn’t want them to go, he covered very artistically with huge loose cobbles, have you tried running or even walking on them? Cunning devil.
Strategic paths and walkways have to be planned, but within the garden, don’t be too disciplined. I have that very problem at home, in the new garden. I wanted to hide my shed and the best place was behind a couple of mature conifers. Even if I say so myself, it is well placed because it looks as if it has always been there.
I have a nice wee path leading up to it through the border but the only way you can get there is across the lawn and it is not big enough to have a path right through the middle of it. What am I going to do now to avoid creating a worn path across my soon-to-be “putting-green” lawn (in my dreams)?
Well, fortunately it is my shed and I’m likely to be the only one who needs to get in to it so, I discipline myself to take a different route across the grass each time. The neebors must think I’m aff ma rocker.
Lesson to be learned – if you are ever in a similar position, don’t be too quick to lay down incidental paths – wait till you get used to the site.
There is hardly a month in the year goes by but we have a propagation opportunity. I raise the topic now because in many gardens, people will be enjoying their Irises. In colder areas, they may be just coming in to flower.
These glories of the “June Garden” are referred to as rhizomatous iris. They are perennial and sometimes clumps become unsightly, as the shoots tend to grow out and away from the centre, leaving a bit of a hole. The best time for surgery is soon after flowering is over.
Mature clumps can be lifted and divided up. How? You will soon note that the leaves growing from the rhizomes are in fan-shaped groups. Each fan has the ability to become a new plant. Simply slice through the rhizome 10cm from the base of the fan, reduce the leaf growth by trimming back to about 20cm long and prepare to plant back into the border.
If you have spare space, you may care to line out these young plants until they become established, filling the gaps in the border with something else.
If we have hot, sunny weather, be prepared to water the propagules in the evening to prevent them from drying out. Secondly, and more importantly, when you do plant them back, be sure that you don’t cover the rhizome completely – leave the top side exposed, this plant needs the rhizome tissue to be ripened to create new flowers and to be able to withstand the coming rigours of the winter.