Time to make my final stand as the hedge wars reach their Waterloo

It is time for the war to end.

It has gone on too long with casualties on both sides.

Now, however, we have reached the point where one side must achieve victory – that will be MY victory.

Yes, this year, 11 years after the struggle began, I am determined to have my Waterloo and, without the need for allies or any form of outside support, that damn hedge will finally be defeated.

It has taunted me, wounded me numerous times, pretended to surrender only to attack me when I was not looking and acted in the completely underhanded way you would never expect from what should simply be a delightful area of growth, a larder for birds and backdrop to our garden.

When we arrived down South, in February 2011, a year after the death of my dear mother, we were met by a neatly trimmed, normal privet-style hedge at the front of the property which then turned unto a prickly barrier as it turned the corner and headed down to the garage.

The front garden was fairly bland, with both sides covered in shingle with a tall acer to one side and a smaller, umbrella-type acer and a garden pond on the other. There were also a few plants in large decorative pots.

The back garden was much larger, with a greenhouse, garden shed, a plum tree, a cherry tree and a magnolia and flower borders and it was here the head gardener, Marion, decided to concentrate her activities and spent the next few years creating a beautiful floral garden combined with a fruit and vegetable area.

My job as under-gardener was to dig holes, cut off big branches and deal with the giant prickly hedge.

Clearly the previous owners of the house must have had a problem with it because they had erected a six-foot fence in between the hedge and the garden itself.

The hedge now looked onto a parking bay, with about an 18 inch strip of tarmaced footpath for people to get to their boots, if reversed in, or their engine compartments. They still tended to put their posteriors in jeopardy if they backed onto the thorns.

The first time I approached the hedge, with an intent to show it who was master, it stood about 10 to 12 feet high and was probably about three feet deep from outer edge to where it was pushing the fence.

Aided by a pair of secateurs and a pair of branch loppers, with extending handles, I got it down to about eight to nine feet high, still at three feet deep but I had got rid of the most vicious of the thorny twigs that had been poking out at every level from ankle, to arm, to well over my head.

I had worn jeans, thick socks, a thick cotton shirt, my father’s old Canadian heavy woollen jacket and a pair of leather-palmed gardening gloves before taking on my prickly opponent.

When I undressed that night my arms and legs had scratches all over them, as did areas of my torso, and I probably had about 30 thorns snapped off on my fingers and the back of my hands.

It took a week for the scratches to heal and another week or two for the thorns to work their way out.

Within a few weeks it had sections going back up to 10 feet and the front, in parts, was a good four feet deep and threatening to attack any cars that came near it.

That summer I made a frontal assault on my enemy at least three more times and concentrated on the upward thrust just the once.

I swear it still kept growing throughout the winter and the thorns grew longer and stronger. There are probably tribes in the depths of some jungle who would have snapped up those thorns to use in their blowpipes when they went hunting.

As the war spread into its second year and beyond I had to keep the front hedge in trim as well and eventually a small electric hand trimmer was added to the armoury which worked fine on this softer, gentler hedgerow, although I still had to take the secateurs to the odd thicker branch shooting up from the middle.

My thorny foe was more than a match for a set of cordless hand strimmers, leaving me to plough on year after year with the branch loppers and increasingly stronger pairs of secateurs. In more recent years I have even had to use a small hand saw and last year even had to use a single-handed bow saw.

Last year it definitely got the best of me and entered 2023 with some parts reaching up 12 feet and a depth of over four feet, not all pushing outwards as it also pushed hard on the fence behind it.

This year it has to be do or die because if I don’t defeat it then in 2024 it will be the equivalent of Russia advancing into the Ukraine and will require high-powered ground level missiles to wipe it out of existence.

Yes, this year it’s me or the hedge.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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