Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Winter is actually an excellent time after all the removal of herbaceous material and pruning has taken place, to work out where the gaps are in your garden. Normally I say planting in autumn is best as the plants have over 6 months to establish before summer’s heat hits. However with the soil so moist I think for the first time in years we might actually be able to plant during spring, so start planning a trip to the nursery soon! In fact you should be at the nursery now and choosing your bare-rooted trees. I visited a local nursery the other day and was impressed with their large selection of both fruit and ornamental trees. Buying bare-rooted trees is cheaper than buying potted trees and they are a lot easier to get home!

I was buying three Gleditsia 'Lime Gold' for the local primary school (the colour of the foliage is the same as the interior paint of the new building - this is really taking the garden inside!). When I got the trees to school, I soaked them in a bucket of water and seaweed solution for 30 minutes before planting to ensure they were thoroughly wet. I pruned off some damaged roots and planted the trees in a hole twice as wide as it was deep ie. at the same level they were before. I put in two stakes placed 30cm out from the trunk of each tree and this will help stabilise them for the first 12 months but then I will remove them. I then tipped the bucket of seaweed water onto the trees to water them in. Come the first sign of leaf burst in spring I will scatter some pelletised chook poo around and mulch the trees well.

Some plants may have their growing tips burnt in a frost during winter and it’s important that you do not cut off these blackened leaves. They will protect the rest of the plant over winter and cutting them off just encourages the plant to put on more growth which will also get burnt. My box hedging is turning bronze – this is normal – it will go green again in spring. My ornamental deciduous grasses are turning brown (miscanthus, red pennisetum etc) this is normal, and I will cut them back very soon. The tree dahlia has flowered its last and soon I can cut the stem down, cut it into foot lengths and plant in large pots which will hopefully shoot in spring.

I am leaving pruning my few roses until the end of the month. Here is my rough guide to pruning roses. Sharpen your secateurs and loppers. Cut off half to two-thirds of the bush. Then cut off anything dead. Then cut off anything thinner than a pencil. I’m not going to talk about slanting cuts or vase shapes or cutting back to a bud. All these things are good but seem to scare someone who has never pruned a rose before. You won’t kill them; in fact they will love you for it. When you see the leaves begin to shoot in spring scatter a handful of pelletised chook manure around the bush and water in.

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