Making the cut

Secateurs at the ready everyone! We are now nearly half way through September and that means one thing in the garden… it’s time to start cutting back. For those wanting advice/confidence on how to start cutting back in their own garden I have included a quick guide using Veronicastrum as an example. Remember you can do this with any herbaceous perennial/ornamental grass that dies back to soil level in winter. Be careful of tender perennials with semi-woody stems e.g. Penstemmon & Artemisia; these should be cut back after winter has finished.

There are several reasons why we cut back herbaceous plants in the garden. First of all it improves growth and flowering; if done early enough after flowering, some species including Geranium, Salvia and Delphinium will produce a second flush later in the same season. For others it ensures a more vigorous, floriferous plant next year. Secondly it neatens up the garden by removing foliage before it dies or becomes diseased. Thirdly (most importantly in my opinion) it makes applying mulch to your beds much easier as there are no leaves/stems/flowers/seed heads in the way!

This lovely Veronicastrum has done its stuff for the year, all flowers are now finished, it’s the perfect time to cut back.
With a sharp pair of secateurs cut back to just above ground level (2-3 inches).
All cut back and weeded.
It’s good practice to chop up rigid stems to aid breakdown of lignin in cell walls on the compost heap.
All five plants cut back and ready for their annual dose of nutritious compost!

Pruning perennials to a novice gardener might seem quite daunting but there really isn’t anything to fear… just like a hair cut, have faith they will grow back! (and with even more vigour than before).

It is worth mentioning that those wanting to leave seed heads etc. for birds and insects should postpone this process until early spring (February) when the same process applies.

Happy chopping!

January jobs

I’m often asked: “what is the best time of year to makeover my garden?” and the answer is anytime you like.. there is no time like the present!

And what better time than January, it’s a new year, a new start and there’s still plenty of time to prepare the garden for summer glory.

Having recently embarked upon a new maintenance/rejuvenation project with one of our clients I thought I’d share with you some of the tasks we are undertaking. Anyone can have a go at these jobs and start transforming their garden. We believe that by starting early in the year, you can kickstart your 2019 garden maintenance routine and fall in love with your garden again.

Firstly cut back all that dead foliage and clear up all those leaves, it might be back breaking but it’s very satisfying and a good way to make visual progress at this time of year. Remember to compost herbaceous waste, it’ll make great mulch next year!

Mixed border before annual clearance

Mixed border after a cut back & weed. Note: Penstemon don’t get cut back until winter frosts are over.

If you have Hellebores start cutting back (and disposing of) the leaves, this not only reveals a gorgeous army of flowers underneath, it also prevents fungal leaf spot, which Hellebores are particularly susceptible to. My advice would be to burn the foliage to make sure the fungus isn’t introduced into your compost

Hellebore flowers revealed

By now, Wisterias should have dropped all of their leaves so you can easily see the buds. Prune back stems to the second or third bud and remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood.

Wisteria before winter prune

Wisteria after winter prune

Now get some heavy duty gloves and prune those roses, the harsher the better. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it. Don’t be frightened, just remember to make an angled cut above an outward-facing bud and you’ll do no harm.

Shrub maintenance is also a lot easier at this time of year, less foliage means you can see what you’re working with. I always start with the three d’s: dead, damaged, diseased. If any of the above apply, get rid. Then take out a third of old stems at the base if the plant is becoming overcrowded. I find the best tools for dealing with shrubs are extendable loppers and a pruning saw.

Viburnum x bodnantense getting some attention

You’ll be amazed at how much rubbish even the smallest of gardens produces. My favourite methods of waste disposal are composting (anything soft/herbaceous) and burning (anything woody/pernicious) but if you don’t have the space or means for this there’s always green waste collection or a good old trip to the tip!

Happy gardening!