Ready, set, prune: Tips for getting your garden winter-ready
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Cutting back hellebores, pruning roses and gathering leaves are the jobs that have kept Debbie McMorran busy in the garden this month.
Although it feels to me that I have been doing nothing but planting bulbs for about the last six months, this week I have found myself doing a job in the garden which although no less back-breaking, is hugely satisfying.
Our garden is filled with hellebores which were already here when we moved in - to have so many well-established plants is a total blessing, but it does mean that there is a lot of upkeep that needs to be done throughout the year. The job this past week has been cutting back the hellebores - and when they each have so many leaves, that’s not a quick job!
The difference it has made in our back garden particularly is stark - edges of lawn which had previously been totally obscured by the foliage have now been exposed, and with the leaves cut back it is obvious just how many had collected on the borders.
After cutting back the leaves we have gone round each border and gathered together all of the leaves. I don’t expect that it will be the last time that we have to do that job, as the trees have not yet finished shedding their leaves, but hopefully by keeping on top of it, it will be a less daunting task in the long term.
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Removing the layer of wet leaves from the garden will allow the bulbs to come through with less obstruction in the spring, and also makes the garden look much tidier in general. If you have a compost bin, you can just add the collected leaves to it - an easy way of getting rid of them while adding nutrients to your compost.
Another job that I will be tackling in the next week or so, is to prune the roses. Having recently heard that the gardeners at Buckingham Palace have a particular method of pruning their roses, I have decided to follow suit and see whether it makes a difference.
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Ashridge House near Berkhamsted have also apparently started to use this method - in pruning the roses hard in November, rather than the generally accepted method of pruning once in November and again in March. Buckingham Palace are said to use this way of pruning, in order to ensure that they have the roses in bloom in time for the first garden party of the year. It will be interesting to see whether they flower earlier than normal, by pruning hard this month, and not pruning again in the spring.
We have worked particularly hard on our rose bed this year, carefully selecting different roses which either especially appealed to us for their scent, or for characteristics we felt would work well in our garden, or in some cases for the names. Most roses will have a given name; many are named after people known to the person who has bred them, or sometimes they have names which are sentimental. These are particularly appealing to those buying roses as gifts.
With names such as ‘Golden wedding’ and ‘Remember me’, it is easy for people to buy a rose which is suitably named when buying for a special occasion or in memory of someone.
Our rose bed is now full to bursting with different rose bushes - some of which are still in bloom now, amazingly!
We have planted lavender all along the front of the bed, and there are two wisteria that are growing up the house at the back. We are hoping that the flowerbed as a whole will be highly scented in the summer, and should be a real haven for bees and other insects.
If you have ordered bare root roses from websites or catalogues earlier in the year, it is likely that they will have been delivered in the last week or so. We have put a couple of bare root roses into the rose bed, and will now be watching with interest to see how they look alongside the others.
Buying bare root roses always feels a slight anticlimax, as you often have to wait quite a while for them to arrive, and then they are not much to look at. Although it is a stark contrast to buying rose bushes in full bloom from garden centres or nurseries during the summer months, it should be no less rewarding when they flower next year.
Things to do in the garden this month:
• In the coming weeks you may want to make a wreath for your door. Using holly and other evergreen foliage it is fairly easy to create a lovely festive-looking wreath.
• If you are lucky enough to have a wisteria, you may wish to winter-prune it.
• Move planters to sheltered spots - this will give them extra protection during the colder months. You might want to protect some of your more important plants and shrubs against the frost with fleece.
• If you like growing vegetables, you can get good mushroom growing kits which are fun to grow over the winter.
• If you have hydrangeas in your garden, you can leave the flower heads until the spring before you cut them back. That way they will protect the buds further down the stem from frost damage.