January is definitely the lazy month for the gardener, sandwiched between the last harvest and the first sowing, many people find the ground too heavy to dig especially with the high recent rainfall, leaving even the most contentious allotmenteer with little to do on their plot. However, the bright sunshine at the beginning of this week tricked me into forgetting the freezing temperatures and lured me into taking a visit to the allotment. I came armed with loppers and secateurs with the intention of sprucing up a few of my shrubs. Looking at one of my greenhouses I asked myself the following question – is a greenhouse meant to be green on the inside or the outside?
Cotoneaster bush invades my greenhouse!
My greenhouse has a cotoneaster bush growing beside it which has now overgrown the whole side of the greenhouse. It is the north facing side which anyway gets very little sun, but I decided that it is still robbing the inhabitants of the greenhouse of air and light and those few hours of northern sunlight during the early and late hours of a summer’s day – maybe it was this green monster that caused the fig tree to have masses of unripe fruit at the end of the season this past year?
I did not intend to remove it completely but just to cut it down to below light damaging levels. The task was more difficult than I thought. Now I understand why my greenhouse has never suffered from wind damage – the cotoneater a self clinging shrub had actually intertwined between the aluminium supports and the glass panes making the greenhouse literally “rooted” in the ground . I have no regret about its removal even though with it being so closely entangled, a few panes of glass inevitably smashed in the process; these will need to be immediately replaced otherwise the embryo figs will catch a cold and these pea size figs that budded at the back end of last year are the most reliable fig crop for the coming year.
Pruning my amelanchier at the wrong time of the year
I found an Amelanchier that has also been left too long to its own devices and has grown to about 3m, it produces young copper foliage with masses of white starry flowers which are then followed with small berries which are meant to be edible but I have always been too shy to try them. I cut it down to around 90cm although it is definitely not the correct time to do it as I surely cut off the buds of all next years beautiful flowers, but after it flowers in late spring I will not find the time to do it, so it had to be done now. Also when I see the bush with its leaves and flowers in the summer I haven’t got the heart to cut it down, but now it is in its dormant state, I know that I am encouraging the shrub to build a more pleasing and down to earth display (literally!).
Why you should keep your shrubs trimmed smaller
Another good reason for keeping shrubs smaller is that otherwise they are less dense lower down and the weeds grow beneath the tree, also, around a smaller shrub it is always easier to dig and loosen the soil periodically, to ensure it has adequate moisture and nutrients and is weed free. So I continued around my allotment cutting back all the border shrubs, which have had their heads in the sky and I am sure they will all reward me with fresh green lush foliage at a welcoming lower level in the spring.
The last shrub I snipped was a juniper bush which although a slow grower, it has recently put on a lot of weight and height, the freshly cut pine leaf aroma was heavenly – there is a good reason why most disinfectants and cleaning liquids advertise a ‘pine’ scent. I took a few twigs home to bring that fresh woodland scent into the house. As I look out of my window towards my flowerbeds where the daffodils are already peeping through the frost laden earth whilst smelling the fresh pine scent, all my senses are telling me that spring is just around the corner.
But before then, use this precious spare time to cut away all excessive growth and make sure your greenhouse will be green on the inside not the outside in the coming year!
I wish you and your garden a happy and healthy year