Friday, 16 May 2014

Trimming Spriggy

When I moved into my current place I inherited a bog-standard short front privet hedge. It was flared outwards at the top, scruffy, invaded by sucker ash, so wide it was invading the pavement space, a bit high to cut and sprouting lovely white flowers before I had got around to even looking at it hard (it was a busy summer). But when I did get to it, I realised I had a shapeable thing. On one of my commutes, I would walk past a knife-thin sharksfin hedge. There was a elephant, trunk overarching the gate, on a nearby street. When I was gardening down in Kennington, I would walk past a lovely, cloud-cut Lonicera hedge. I could prune it. I could make anything. Maybe even a dinosaur!

At first I just concentrated on getting it narrowed down to a sensible width and pointy at the top. We were going through a run of bad winters, and I wanted something the snow would slide off, not splay out. That, and killing the sucker ash. But at some point I noticed a shape in the bush, a headlike raise to the gate end, a shoulderish bulge, a tailing off on the neighbour's side. So I got out my B&Q Value shears and started with a vague idea of an abstract curve, some sort of impression of a bird in flight, suggestive yet abstract, something akin to Brancusi's Bird in Space.

Instead I got Spriggy Stardust, the Chameleon from Venus:

Not entirely my fault. Topiary is a conversation between you and the plant, and you can expect it to ramble all over the place. And early Spriggy was an awkward subject. A vestigial head, a punched-out tail, wandering legs still not quite sure what they were doing. But the hedge was always absolutely clear on one thing; that curly, perfect tail.

This year he's starting to look much healthier and fill out a bit. Still needs more height on the back, but that's a good thing, really as those growing sprigs will bear the privet flowers and both the bees and me are very fond of them.

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