“Nature is the gardener’s opponent. The gardener who pretends he is love with her, has to destroy all her climaxes of vegetation and make… an alliance with her which she will be the first to break without warning, in the most treasonable way she can. She sneaks in, she inserts her weeds, her couch-grass, her ground elder, her plantain, her greenfly and her slugs behind his back. The bitch.”
Gardenage by Geoffrey Grigson (1952)
Conifers have had a bad rap in the NZ gardening world since their glory days of the 1970s. We regard this as entirely unfair. It is not the plants that are at fault, it is how we used them. If you are lucky enough to have some smaller growing conifers in your garden, getting in and cleaning them out improves the look, assists plant health by reducing problems with pests and diseases. They can build up an astonishing amount of decaying needles and debris which starts composting over time. What may look like a few brown tufts of foliage from the outside reveals a whole lot more if you part the branches to look within.
I just don gardening gloves and manually dislodge the debris, reminding myself I should start at the highest point I can reach and work my way down, rather than the temptation to do it the other way. I then follow up with secateurs to tidy up dead stems, trimming flush back to the branch. Snails like snoozing out the days in conifers, I notice. All plants benefit from some air movement and few appreciate composting material against their trunks.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.