At the start of February, as the buds began to burst on the pots of Carpinus japonica sheltering along the side of the house, I knuckled down and spent some hours researching sources of local coppiced wood; drawing and calculating dimensions for a suitable frame structure to support our planned screens.
One blustery day towards the end of that month, the eagerly awaited truck of the accommodating Phil Hopkinson, from Malvern Coppicing, pulled up outside and soon we had a collection of long stout lengths of ash for our uprights and whippier lengths of hazel to form horizontal and diagonal guides to tie our branches into.
The lengths of silvery ash and hazel lay waiting for several more weeks before we began to construct our support, and could finally plant out the hornbeam which were already starting to unfurl their beautiful serrated leaves. In March, we measured and marked out positions for the poles, using pegs of wood tapped into the earth to represent each upright until we were happy with the results.
Work began in earnest a few days’ later. It was hard work; there is barely a spade’s depth of the clay that we garden here on top of the sheets of fragmented rock, known locally as pin rock, below, but over the course of a weekend the uprights were put in place.
With these firmly driven in, and stabilised with a little concrete, we bent hazel rods to form the first horizontal tier of the frame. The Carpinus japonica could then be interplanted along the perimeter of the structure.
In the haze of the past few weeks, we found an opportunity to busy ourselves with tying in a second horizontal tier above the first, we hope to complete the rest of the frame as time allows. Despite the delay, I am pleased with our progress. The coppiced wood is sound and rather smart, it should blend in well to our rural environment, and I am pleased that we found a sustainable source rather than being driven to mass-produced fencing products.
Once the main poles were erected in March, I also spent an afternoon digging the remainder of the border behind the frame where I had previously marked a smooth curve with a spade, so that the border runs smoothly to the return of the frame. I dug out the last of the turf in this border area and dug the border over ready for planting later in the spring.
Unfortunately fierce storms here have prevented us from completing the framework or any other work in the garden this weekend.
This was the view that greeted us this morning, through rain-streaked glass, when we woke to find that our neighbour’s 12-14 foot trampoline had landed upside down on the raspberry patch. The post -and-wire rows of summer raspberries had been flattened, and one of the young espaliered apple trees that we have been training to bound the front and side of the fruit garden had been snapped clean in half and its post-and-wire frame similarly felled. From four tiers to two in one night…
The raspberries were cut free from their flattened supports, but looked relatively intact, their flexible nature preventing too much damage. We shall reinstate their frames and tie them back up as soon as we can. While the apple tree (Kidd’s Orange Red) fared rather worse, we are lucky that we only lost the top, and the roots were not torn from the earth. We shall tidy up the break with a pair of secateurs, tie the remaining tiers in to a new frame, and wait for buds to break again to build up the top tiers in the years to come. An unfortunate set-back indeed.
The winds and rain continued to wage all day; we were unable to even return the trampoline over the boundary due to the strength of the winds that made walking, or even talking, an effort. With our crestfallen neighbour’s help, it was all that we could do to lift it from the fruit garden, and make it safe upon our grass nearby, laden with breeze blocks to prevent the wind picking it up once more. In the time that we have been here, we don’t remember a wind blowing across us from the bitter north before, and certainly not with such malice. I hope that you have fared better where you are.