Archive for February, 2011

As the days become milder, everyone seems to be itching to get out into their gardens, and with loppers in hand, start to chop away at their shrubs. Friend Jessica moved into her new house (and garden) last summer and cannily noticed that flowering on her Philadelphus (Mock Orange) was rather meagre. She’s tempted ‘to hack it right down’ now. The question is, is this wise? I’d say Whoah! Hang on a minute. First things first: if you know what your plant is, then google ‘How and when  to prune..a Philladelphus’ or look it up in a good gardening book before making the first cut.

The excellent RHS Pruning and Training book (sexy title, I know) really helps to de-mystify the whole pruning process and is a very practical guide to pruning trees, shrubs, roses and climbers. I find it invaluable, as pruning is such a vast topic and it’s great to have so many answers at your fingertips.

Jessica’s shrub certainly needs a fair bit of thinning-out, but Philadelphus, like quite a number of shrubs (and fruit bushes and canes by the way), flowers on the stems that it produced the previous year. If the whole plant is cut right back now, then there’ll be no flowers this year. What to do? As it’s still only February, I’d wait another month or so before doing anything. It may seem mild now, but the weather can still turn cold, and pruning will encourage new tender growth which could then be damaged by a late frost or, dare I say it, more snow! In March, dead, diseased and damaged stems can be removed, then the whole plant thinned out to leave the thinner, fresher looking stems that grew last year. These are the stems on which her flowers will be produced this summer. (More on this in March, accompanied with ‘how to’ pics.) If you have no idea what your plant is, then the rule of thumb is to let it flower before pruning. This will help you to identify the plant and, by knowing when it flowers, when is the best time to prune.

So the Philadelphus can wait (sorry Jessica), but here are some plants that do need to be pruned now:

  • Autumn fruiting Raspberries, cut stems right down to the ground and fruit will form on the new stems that grow this year. Don’t be tempted to cut down summer fruiting raspberries now, as in common with the Philadelphus, you will see no fruit this year. If in doubt, don’t prune until plant has fruited. Or if you’re feeling experimental, then prune some of the canes now and leave the rest. This would probably be the option I would go for. (‘How to prune raspberries’ post following shortly.)
  • Apple and Pear Trees, to reduce overcrowded ‘spurs’ on which the fruit is formed, and to keep tree airy so fruit has good chance of ripening. Don’t prune Cherry or Plum trees (or any other tree with stone fruits) yet as you will be leaving the tree vulnerable to getting Silver Leaf and cankers through the wounds. Established Plum or Cherry trees should be pruned in summer.
  • Climbing Roses, to thin out and to train last year’s new growth to grow horizontally-this encourages more flowers and stops roses only forming at the top of the plant. (Another ‘How to prune a rose’ post following too.)
  • Standard Roses, remove older wood to encourage younger, more vigorous stems and prune out any crossing stems which could rub against each other, causing damage which invites disease
  • Hydrangeas, again to encourage new vigorous shoots and to keep a pleasingly shaped plant-prune just as the buds are forming-no later as Hydrangeas will bleed as they start to grow and pruning too late could kill the plant.

One last word of caution. Plants that have green-grey foliage, such as Lavender, or other Mediterranean plants such as Rosemary, are a little on the tender side, so don’t be in a rush to prune these plants just yet either. Judge the weather for yourself. If it’s continuing to be mild in March, then prune away. If, on the other hand, it’s still really cold, then hold off pruning until warmer weather is with us. When pruning Lavender, don’t be afraid to prune hard back to just above the lowest live bud. This may seem harsh as you may be removing a lot of the plant, but it will keep the plant in a much better, bushy shape than a lightly trimmed plant which will become ‘leggy’ in a couple of years time.

Most pruning won’t kill a plant, so do a bit of research, sharpen your secateurs and then have a go. You learn the most about pruning through hands-on experience!

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What a stunner!! I have just planted this most pleasing of small trees for a client. As the sun shone through it’s umbrella like crown, it seemed to light up the whole garden and contrasted splendidly with the dark green foliage of next doors’ heavy  evergreen plantings. Looks tender, but has gone to -12 degrees centigrade this year already, and will grow in sun or part shade. Evergreen to boot, what’s not to love about this fabulous plant.

Schefflera Hoi comes from Vietnam and is available from Crug Farm Plants, based in North Wales, but currently showing off their glorious collection at the London RHS Show in Victoria, today and tomorrow, Tuesday 15th Feb and Wednesday 16th Feb 2011. If you miss them now, they will also be showing at the Chelsea Flower Show in May this year (2011) for the first time. Go visit!

p.s.Crug Farm Plants will also be taking part in the RHS Plant and Design Show in London on the 14 &15 February 2012


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Ivyshed from shedworking.co.uk

Ivy (Hedera) can be a wonderful plant: evergreen, fast to grow, many coloured and with the ability to clamber over a multitude of sins. It can also provide insulation and a natural habitat for birds and animals in your garden, but at what price to your walls?

Ivy before trimming

While cutting back ivy covering a wall, damage done to the bricks, hitherto unnoticed, was revealed.

The top layer of bricks has been lifted off most of the wall

and the roots have burrowed into the mortar in large sections too.

Damage done will have to be repaired now to avoid a more costly intervention a few years down the road.

Speaking to the Brick Development Association (yes, I really did), they would warn against planting Ivy against walls, because, as seen above, the roots do infiltrate the mortar. They say the problem with Ivy, is when you want to remove it, as is so entangled that it will inevitably damage the wall. If you do want to remove it, they recommend cutting it at the roots and leaving it to die back for  TWO YEARS! , before carefully removing the plant from the wall. As a gardener, I wouldn’t like to see a dead or dying plant in a garden for this length of time.

However the better shape the mortar is in to begin with, the easier to control the Ivy with regular pruning and possibly cutting Ivy right down to the ground every few years. Quite a task and obviously cutting right back would leave a bare wall for a good few months until the Ivy grew back again. Not ideal.

An alternative to Ivy,  if you have a south or west facing wall and if it is sheltered and in a mild climate, may well be Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmin). It too provides evergreen coverage of large areas, with the added bonus of wonderful scent from mid to late summer.

Wisteria pic from threadspider.wordpress.com

Or a magnificent Wisteria if you have a south-facing wall. Not evergreen, but in winter you still have a very beautiful sculptural framework to look at. Worth considering, although it would take many years to achieve this marvellous growth above!

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