When we bought our house, it came with several vines, a giant walnut tree, an even bigger oak tree, an almost-as-big lime tree, and a plum tree. And grass. A hectare of grass. Pristine, weed-free, uniformly high grass. All kept in neat order by five sheep, who stared at us belligerently as we wandered around what they regarded as their territory.
The vendor moved the sheep to an adjacent field, from where they glared contemptuously and knowingly as I dug a pond, planted shrubs, made a rose bed, some flower borders, and planted a wisteria.
It took a short while for things to start to grow. About a month. And then whoosh! Everything went mad. The forsythia. The vinca. The rhus. The tamarisk. And the wisteria. Oh my goodness, how that grew and grew and grew. And the grass thrived on the combination of heat, occasional rain, and frequent dew. And it called for mowing at least twice weekly.
Mowing grass is one of those things that has never enthralled me. Frankly, it’s a chore that give little pleasure apart from the smell. But it has to be done, and the only thing that comes to mind that I remember as being equally uninspiring was Saturday morning stocking-darning at boarding school.
Our lawn is too small and irregularly shaped to warrant a sit-upon mower, but we have a good electric machine that does the job quickly and efficiently. However, I simply cannot stand pushing it backwards and forwards to make neat stripes. The very thought makes my hair go lank. So I have a particular method of mowing that I recommend to people who are similarly depressed each time they drag out the mower.
Make islands. I find triangles work best, but trapezoids, rhombi, or kidney shapes are all worth a go. Start by mowing the outer edges to form the shape of your choice. Then you can snip off a point, or mow a single edge. Keep chipping away thus at the shape, and marvel as it becomes smaller and smaller, until you deliver the final coup de grass, and that’s one island gone. Your heart gives a small leap. Now make a new island; it doesn’t matter where, because eventually the whole area will be mown without the monotony of going backwards and forwards in regimented lines.
Tomorrow I shall be revealing the secret of anarchic pruning.