Monday, October 2, 2017

Rumble in the jungle

We're renovating again. This time it's the lush but messy jungle of gingers ... it has to go. Sorry.

The jungle looks pretty ordinary all through spring. The problem is, once the frangipani tree is bare, and after I cut down the nearby lush lemon grass foliage from its six-foot high peak to a mere six-inch stump, you can see too much of the jungle. For nine months of the year it's almost hidden from sight, but now you can see it too clearly. It is an eyesore of dead brown bits ... lots of dead brown foliage beneath the evergreen canopy. I try to cut it back, but it is a fight to make it look even respectable.

Here's the offending foliage from its best angle, where it almost looks nicely jungle-like under the shade of the frangipani.

And here it is while the lemon grass stalks are just little 'uns in late spring. However, for all of September, October and November, the ginger patch looks messy. It needs a lot of cutting back, and despite that effort it rarely looks very appealing.

My problem was simply that I knew it was going to be an appalling job. I didn't even stop to think about the spiders and other creepy crawly life that might not be very pleased by my intrusion. I just concentrated on how much sheer hard work was involved ... and as it turns out, I was right! 

I'm not young anymore, and it has taken me a few days to cut it all down and dig it all out. Once it's reduced to brown rubble, it doesn't look so big, but don't let that fool you.

The worst part, without doubt, was digging out the roots with a mattock. These formed a dense mat about 3 yards long and one yard wide, and at ground level there was barely any soil. 

And beneath one layer of roots I often found a second, deeper layer of roots. These gingers really know how to build an environmental civilisation.

I scoured my shed for every tool I could find to help reduce the patch to a pile. It was an international effort, with a Japanese trimmer, an Aussie mattock, Swiss secateurs, Korean digger and a Japanese cane cutter.

The electric hedge trimmers removed the top layer of foliage, but didn't have much impact on the canes. The mattock somehow got heavier and heavier each time I picked it up, but in the end, like the forwards in a rugby match, the mattock won the "player of the match" award. I could not have done it without this ancient tool.

This jaggedy-edged scythe is called a Niwashi Shark, and it was brilliant at cutting down the canes almost to ground level. It's a Japanese garden tool, but I bought mine from New Zealand, at, several years ago, and it is a well-made tool that feels like it is going to last the next few decades that will probably see me out here on planet Earth.

A wonderful all-round digging too, my Ho-Mi was fabulous at tilling the soil and discovering extra layers of roots once the mattock had "cleared" a section. It too feels like it will last a lifetime, and I particularly like the way the blade of my old Ho-Mi looks like it was forged in the Middle Ages. I bought mine online from the Gundaroo Tiller,, at about the same time I bought my Niwashi tiller and my Niwashi Shark — I think about 10 years ago, and last time I checked online they still seem to be in business.

Finally, the good news. For my shady 3 metres of ground, I am planting some hydrangeas. Pammy asked for a white one, but I also like blue ones, so we're buying both. The spot where the hydrangreas will grow will be shady for most of the time, but exposed to the sunshine in late winter and early spring, so I hope it suits them.

I'm glad I've done all the heavy digging to get rid of the ginger patch now. Five years from now I don't think I'd be physically up to the task. It almost killed me this time round.

I kind of like the idea of returning to growing old-fashioned hydrangeas in my dotage. More my pace these days.

1 comment:

Therese said...

Hi Jamie,
just don't overdo it, but you in your dotage....hard to believe, you are still almost a spring chicken!
Anyway, looks like a job well done!