Pruning things and avoiding scary caterpillars

Right that’s it there is no time to mess around, it is time to get amongst those plants and trees and get pruning. I have pruned and cut so much lately that I am now officially known as the Sweeney Todd of Campoverde. Cruella my wife calls me the Demon Gardener; but that is only when she is being kind.

23rd November: Things I have been doing lately.

🍇 Pruning grapevines. In our climate the beginning of winter is the time to prune grapevines. By now all the leaves should be in a shrivelled state and will have already started to fall off. Because grapevines start to regrow in very early spring, if you leave it much later you will be cutting off new growth and they will weep sap and may be liable to infections

I have three grapevines, one is quite big and is on wires at the front of the house, whilst the two others are growing along balustrade by the swimming pool. Cruella and my friend Karl attempted to kill all my vines this summer in the worst case of plant cruelty seen by the RHS. Both are slated to appear before the International Court for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants; I will let you know what happens, but it will probably be on television. The photos below show my grapevines in their unpruned state. Click on each photo for a larger view.

The aim when pruning grapevines is to end up with one or two main stems. You need to cut all last year’s growth off each stem leaving just two potential buds. If you get scared leave three; I do sometimes. Once you have trimmed the stems up and cut them back, then you need to tie them into the wires. It is important that you tie them in, or the wind will thrash the stem around and bash your two little buds to death. The photos below show the grapevines in their new neatly trimmed state. Click on each photo for a larger view.

🍈 Pruning an olive tree. I only have one olive tree and it is about 5 years old. This basically means that it is old enough for its first big prune. Now, I was just going to trim it up to keep it fruiting as I have enjoyed processing the olives and then storing them in jars for future use. When I mentioned this to Cruella, she called me an idiot and reminded me that we still had jars of olives from years ago. To be honest I could corner the market in antique olives; if there were such a thing. I am thinking of opening and EBay shop!

Anyway, the outcome of the great olive debate was that I decided to go for a radical topiary type prune. If you are going to radically prune any tree it is important that you study the tree shape over a number of days and think about how it might look when completed. The olive tree and I have been warily watching each other for days. Like boxers circling in the ring we have been weighing each other up and making feints towards each other. Occasionally as I passed I would stick my head under the canopy to check out the branch structure (I cannot think of an appropriate methaphor for this that doesn’t sound rude). The photo below shows the unpruned olive tree ready for the battle.

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The calm before the storm

Well, the outcome is that we finally went at it today. It wasn’t easy, there was no quarter given and none asked for. We both new this was a fight that could only end one way. I was armed with secateurs, long armed lopers and a pruning saw. The olive tree had five years of pent up wrath and energy, slashing branches, and knotted areas that made the saw bounce and get blunt. I lost blood and the tree lost branches. At the end we both stood panting, leaning against each other and covered in tree debris. The photo below shows the final pruned version. I will admit it will take time to look it’s best; Cruella cried when she saw it, but only because that is where she normally buries kittens and little rabbits.

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Oh dear, I think my fellow garden blogger and tree specialist Tony Tomeo.wordpress.com  may want a word with me

✂️ Pruning Canna. You will remember that early this summer I removed two large Pampas grasses and replaced them with lovely Cannas. Well the Cannas have been a great success, they have grown quickly to be large ornamental statement plants. Whilst they are not quite finished flowering yet, they start to suffer from browning leaves at this time of the year. This is perfectly normal and is part of the process whereby the plant returns all its goodness to the underground rhizomes. I will eventually cut the top growth down in January (I think, but I will see how they turn out). But in the meantime you need to cut out all the dead brown leaves so that the plant does not become unsightly. The photo below shows one of the newly tidied Cannas. It wouldn’t let me do anything at first, I think it had seen the olive tree and was scared!

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Whose a pretty boy?

🕷 Replanting Spiderwort. Those of you who follow this blog avidly will no doubt have followed the great Spiderwort Experiment of a few Posts ago. At that time I was experimenting with taking and growing cuttings from Spiderwort (Tradescantia). Anyway, at the risk of boring you I have suffered another Spiderwort event. Something has been eating one of my Spiderwort and making it look very moth eaten see first photo below.

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Who has been eating my Spiderwort?

After close inspection all I could find was the bright green caterpillar shown in the first photo below. However, and perhaps coincidentally, lurking nearby was the much larger ferocious looking caterpillar, second photo below. After a swift trial where I was both judge and jury, I found the green caterpillar guilty and he duly suffered the ultimate penalty. The big ferocious looking one was found not guilty; mainly on the basis that he intimidated the jury. Nevertheless he was banished by being launched into the farthest reaches of the wild part of our garden. What do you mean you didn’t know we had a wild part to our garden. Right then I shall dedicate a future Post to this exciting topic.

The final photo below shows the replanted Spiderwort. I had to use cuttings from other plants as the original was too far gone. I also removed the top 20cm of soil from the pot and renewed it with fresh compost, just in case something was lurking in the soil.

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All new and ready to grow

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

4 thoughts on “Pruning things and avoiding scary caterpillars”

  1. Oh, silly me! I just remembered that we had this little matter of a certain olive tree to discuss. I just scrolled up to look at the picture, and it looks remarkably good. Oh, you seem surprised that I would say that.
    It looks like the tree had been trained with that sort of symmetry before this pruning. To top is mostly flat and nicely rounded. From the two dimensional perspective of the picture, the branches seem to be well spaced. I would guess from the description that they are well spaced all the way around. I know it is not exactly aesthetically appealing, but it works nice for fruit production. The only recommendation that I would make is that the stubs should be pruned away more cleanly. I would pollard it back to cleaner knuckles. Most of the branches end with a bunch of stubs originating from the same union. If you cut those stubs off, back to the union, there will be knuckles ready to go. For the stem pointing to the upper left, there are only two branches coming off of the main branch, with a bit of spaces between them. For them, you might want to cut off the lower stub back to the main branch, and cut the main branch just above where the stub was pruned away. It will leave only two cuts, but it might be better than one bigger cut. Either way, it is the beginning of new knuckles. There is no need to keep any foliage, unless you are concerned about scald over winter. Except for obtrusively low limbs, you probably will not need to prune the tree next year. The following year, you can prune the biggest limbs back to the knuckles, leaving the more manageable limbs to develop fruit.

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  2. Oh my! I need to take a breather. I will be right back. . . . Oh my! I will be right back again. . . . Oh my! Well, your spiderwort looks good. You had enough there for a whole herd of cuttings. Your cannas look good too if you are trying too keep the flowering going for a while. New canes should be on their way up by the time you cut those old canes down. The grapevines are exemplary! Not many people want to prune them aggressively enough. . . . Okay, . . . well . . . I gotta go. Have a nice day!

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    1. Hi Tony,

      Your comments were very helpful and I followed your advice in relation to the olive tree. You will remember that I have a Mimosa that I was thinking of pollarding, well I am thinking of pruning it in a donut shape. This is a common thing that is done with Spanish formal trees and I have succcesfully undertaken it before, but not with Mimosa. Basically you cut out the central trunk and train the other main branches out into a circle around where the trunk was. I am not going to try this at the moment as my wife is at our house in England and I have a great history of falling off ladders. Best wishes and keeping blogging I enjoy your stuff.

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      1. Oh wow! I did the same with a Monterey cypress! I would not recommend it with a cypress of course, but the top got busted out, and I did not want it to grow into a tree. My only other option was to remove it, It was cool, but really was no better than a simple juniper.

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