Thursday, 13 September 2007

The Cruellest Cut - a thorny issue

Now that September is here, the growth of the grass has slowed down. This means that I don't have to cut the grass quite so often, which frees up my time to catch up with other tasks round Puddock Acres. So I've been thinning the hedgerows that surround the land. These hedgerows are natural, wild things so are full of the kind of shrubby plants that do well here - mainly gorse, with bramble, dog rose and honeysuckle running through it - breathlessly picturesque but very prickly.
So, as I hacked away, I knew that they were going to bite back. In between swearing sessions, I fell to musing on which was the jaggiest. (Honeysuckle, of course, is blissfully free of thorns.)

Bramble has a reputation for being prickly and I'm sure there is a fair amount of blood mixed in with the brambles gathered on roadside verges at this time of year but frankly, in this company, it is merely a bit of a nuisance. The stems are soft and the thorns tend to be equally so.

Gorse is another story. It is famously unfriendly; its thorns are long and stiff; its branches entirely covered in the damn things. Picking up any branch has to be undertaken with extreme care. This lady describes well many people's attitude to the stuff. I have a love/hate relationship with it. It is a thug, it is a nightmare to control but its brilliant yellow flowers are a joy and I have even grown to love its musky scent; it also provides useful protection for tree seedlings and flowers. So as long as I can cut it back every couple of years I'm quite fond of the old ruffian. What's more, it is not the spiniest thing to deal with in the garden. That's right - gorse is only number 2 in the thorny stakes.

It is the good old dog rose that is the champion Puddock-impaler. I had been going to award the gorse the ultimate accolade but as I was being scratched by the gorse branches, an insignificant twig of dog rose brushed against my thigh and I was hooked. As you can see from the picture above, the thorns are like fish hooks so once they are in you do extra damage getting them out. The thorns are also as tough as metal - you can't just laugh them off like the brambles.

So, dog rose wins the prize for irritating me the most - but I wouldn't be without it. The thrill of having hedges filled with honeysuckle and rose, with all that perfume and all that colour, just about gets me through while I bathe my scratches!

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