Sadly, in 2021, I lost an alarming number of friends and acquaintances, so I suppose it’s not unsurprising that we also experienced casualties in the garden. These felt a bit like children, which we had nurtured for more than 20 years, and they had become old family friends and felt like cherished pets.
However, after twenty years, I admit that maintaining a garden dominated by topiary specimens has become quite a chore. In my mid-forties – and for many years, I took pride in the shapes we cut using box hedging as our medium. For a while, and because I snipped away at them regularly, I had two almost perfectly shaped balls, about the size of blow-up beach balls.
Then, I kept them in pots, and next to my children, these were my pride and joy. Being in pots, they were easy to trim and maintain, as I would place them on a table and rotate them easily, so maintaining their desired shape and size was a simple task.
As often happens in life, I became so much busier as my young children grew, and the Dragon Lady always had a long list of chores waiting for me to complete. So, it made sense to transfer my little football-shaped friends to the raised beds.
Freedom at last!
In the same way that energetic greyhounds exploded into life when released from their leads. Similar happened with my football box specimens. It seemed the moment their roots discovered that a strong crock-pot no longer imprisoned them; they made a dash for freedom in every direction. It was so quick it would have even impressed the greyhounds.
Above ground, their growth became genuinely spectacular! It reminded me of those days when my beard was dark and fierce. I would shave in the morning, and by the evening, I looked as though I needed to shave again as I now boasted a dark shadow of stubble which gave me a sinister and unkempt appearance. Now, almost the day after a trim, the box bushes appeared to be immediately much greener with sprouting new growth, highlighting they would soon need trimming again.
Every weekend I had to find time for a quick trim. I say quick, but in truth, proficient trimming to keep their size and shape took a good half-hour to forty minutes of my time bent over them trimming, pruning, and then standing back to check if my work with symmetrical. This was time I didn’t have, and a couple of years later, they had both doubled in size. Though they retained a round shape, they have become very unsymmetrical and brought a more artistic feel to the garden.
All was not right!
I noticed earlier in the year an unusual lack of recovery after their first trim, and that in places, they have become quite brown, although as I recovered from the covid virus, I felt the same way and didn’t have much strength to pay attention. Then, just the other day, my ancient aunt highlighted the fact she had spent hours removing a dead box bush from her garden, which had succumbed to a disease. A bush killing disease was now consuming this species across the UK. This was nothing new. I remember it started with ‘Dutch Elm Disease’, which dramatically altered the UK landscape until variants of the same disease mutated and began killing and minimising the population of different species ever since.
It was then I noticed that only the skeletons of my old friends remained – they passed away quietly and without a word of comfort from me, and I felt guilty for not being there for them. So later today I will be removing them and committing their bodies to the chipper before being added to the compost heap for final decomposition. At least they died together, which is the way I feel it should be, and certainly, they have gone at the right time of the year, as my wife has already purchased their replacements.