Monday, 10 September 2012
September sees the start of the clipping season at Levens Hall. And with our collection of over one hundred weird and wonderful topiary shapes, it is a trimming task that takes some time…
First for the treatment is the one I get to see most of, just outside our garden gate. This tiered Yew tree is a mere 15 years old, but it does sit squarely in the view from our breakfast table. Hand shears, a good eye and a steady hand are all that are required. Once that has had its annual haircut it is onto the rest of the much bigger and older specimens.
This is where some professional access equipment comes into play. These wonderful old shapes have been sculpted for over three centuries and have grown slowly up and out over that time. The biggest are over thirty feet (10 metres) high now and although ladders and lightweight scaffolding can play their part, we find a hydraulic lift or 'cherry picker' gets us up and out to the work so much easier.
For the most part, while floating about amongst our clipped tree tops, we use long reach petrol hedge trimmers to shave our shapes smooth. We follow that up soon afterwards with a cut from floor level to complete the trim right down to the ground. It really is satisfying work to see the sharp and closely sculpted forms emerge once more from their fuzzy outlines of blurring summer growth.
But, perhaps best of all are the views we get from up there. The lift goes 40 feet straight up, and although 'maxing out' is a bit of a wobbly white-knuckle ride, it is a once a year opportunity to get a different angle on the garden and to see the bigger picture. The colour schemes in the crisply edged beds fall into stark contrast and act as plinths for our tightly trimmed art-works.
Yes, we can still see plenty of work to do down there. We have four months of full on clipping, cutting and tidying before we can put the garden to bed for the winter. Then, if we are lucky, a dusting of snow will add the final magic to the wonderful garden at Levens Hall…