And so it becomes high summer; the sun reaches out with long fingers and all the gardens that I work on respond in song, growing in volume until they fill border space and the whole ensemble almost breaks under itself like one of Wagner’s caffeine-induced crescendos. It is a busy time and everything wants for tempering or a bit of fuss.
To that end, I am willing and do frequently deploy two-stroke equipment, and in doing so become that most unnecessary of things… a two-stroke hero; but for most barricading shrubs I have always avoided the inevitable trial of starting the trimmer and pluck for hand shears. There is a rhythm and natural placation to trimming by shears; the steady upstroke and the flick against the right handle to keep an even cut. I know the world when I am shearing, but here’s the development… my clients just won’t stop buying shrubs. They complain about a lack of late summer flowers, ignore me when I say Dahlias repeatedly, and then they go ahead and buy more shrubs. Something had to give or else I was going to have to go ahead and clone myself, and that is still a right hassle from what I have seen.
The answer would have to be something else and it came in the form of a twenty-volt electric trimmer; eager enough for light work and light enough for eager use. It came and did its scissoring, but I am not sure that it is the answer. Already I am aware of the sort of methodological malaise that Tolkien had long suspected was already over our horizon. Mechanization. When I clip by hand (not literally. Although if you are paying.) I am leading the movement, applying the pressure, and sensing the slice of the blade. There is no principal complexity to it, but there are infinite shades of grain to the union of shrub and blade, and I like to imagine that that grain of understanding is what my clients are paying for. It turns out that they are happy with the electric, where other than trimming out the sharpest of shapes, I am more a witness than a participant.
Last summer I listened to the whole of The Lord of the Rings while shearing away at work and it was wonderful. My first return to Middle Earth as an Orthodox Christian. Those three elements combined into something glorious amongst the high summer of middle-west England. A quiet moment of personal good order amongst creation. Praise be on high.
This summer with the electric, I am too guilty to bring Tolkien into the rat-a-tat-tat atmosphere of scissors and voltage. Yes, that is partly because they are quite loud, but also because they are not quite… how do I say?
They are just not quite.
They are really good, but they are really legalistic about it. I gently put mine into a bit of chicken wire the other day just to teach it a lesson. I do not want to have to do that again, and I think that after a week we are learning to live with each other. A reconciliation on my part to start again again. Tolkien was probably right, but it is just too hot with the season to get grumpy about it.
‘The Lord God took the man He formed and put him in the garden to tend and keep it.’
John William Bowe