Final clear up!
This week shall be my final clear up of last year’s foliage and spent flowers.
It is advisable not to prune certain bushes in the winter as during an early warm spell this will induce an immediate lush growth that will be killed by a hard frost and there aren’t always new buds below for the plant to fall back on. Similarly certain bulbs and tubers that are only hardy to around -5oC feel just that wee bit cosier during a cold spell if last years foliage stays on top of them during the cold months and act as an insulator. By Mid March however, the threat of hard frosts are over and it is time to do the final tidy up. Let me share with you a few examples:
If you haven’t yet pruned them, then now is the time to prune them, otherwise your rose bushes will sadly look like so many others – a tall scraggly mess with bare lower branches.
Official pruning laws are; prune away any thin twigs, leave a cup shaped plant with an open centre, remove any crossing branches, always leave a slanting cut above a bud of a potential new shoot. If you have too many rose bushes and too little time to give each one such individual attention ( like myself), then close the gardening book with its rules, take a hedgecutter and cut off at least half of last years growth. Following this massacre take a pair of sharp secateurs and cut away any twigs that are defying the laws of gravity by being totally misshapen, give a clean cut to any twigs that have been mulled by the hedgecutter and leave the rest to nature. In a few weeks time when the leaves begin to unravel you can then cut away any twig that protrudes more than a few cm. above the new foliage as otherwise it could cause die back.
We usually leave the flower heads right through the winter as this is said to give protection to the plant, it also forms part of the winter scene listening to the wind whistling through its dried flower heads. Now that the leaves are beginning to unravel cut the twigs above the new leaves. Cut the twigs around 30cm lower than the height you would like the plant to be, but bear in mind that if you cut the plant at the lower level of leaves you will risk loosing flowers for this year as often the lower leaves do not bear flower buds.
This is a perennial plant which has many strap like leaves, which when left overwinter will keep the plant warm, but now that the green spikes are beginning to push through the soil remove all the brown foliage to the compost heap.
Another reason to leave the leaves over winter, is to remind you of the whereabouts of the plants beneath them, so that you should not inadvertally disturb it or plant something else in its place during the winter.
An example of this is in the Vegetable Plot, where I usually leave the dead leaves of the horseradish plants in situ so that I will know where to find the throngs in spring before the leaves emerge.
Many of these heaps of brown leaves look like a compost heap – so please remove them as soon as possible now that they are no longer needed, as our neighbours (and ourselves) all enjoy a tidy and an atheistic plot !!
Good Gardening to you all