The big chop down has started – and I fell off a ladder

The big Winter Chop Down in the garden has just started and I have already completed my annual fall off a ladder. This annual event involves me balancing precariously either up a tree or on top of various types of ladders and platforms. This year’s occurrence whilst not being as spectacular as some past years, did involve me falling about six foot on to my head and side whilst holding a hedge trimmer. My hand and wrist were a bit damaged, but hey my heads ok. Cruella (my wife) says it’s the thickest part of my body. Anyway, let’s get this blog started I have messed around long enough with triviality and medical updates; mind you it does hurt, and I do have a rather fetching stretchy thing on my wrist. See photo below.

I think it looks quite fetching.

5th December: Things I have doing lately.

🌿 Cutting back Lantana. Before you start the big chop down it is a good idea to cut back perennials otherwise you risk damaging them as heavy prunings drop on to them. In my case this only really applies to Lantana. So if you have Lantana, and lots of people in Spain do, then now is the time to cut them back. Lantana can take quite hard pruning, in many cases to just about six inches for mature plants. I have two type of Lantana in my garden: trailing ground cover type and the normal bush type. The bush ones are only about a year old so I have not cut them back very much, whilst the trailing ones I can cut back quite drastically and they will come back as they are older. The pictures below show the Lantana in their unpruned and pruned states.

🌳 Pruning trees. I have lots of trees, many are fruit trees and a considerable number are pines. However, the only ones that I really prune besides the fruit trees are a large evergreen Ficus and a large Mimosa. Ficus are lovely evergreen trees that do well in Spain, but they can get a bit top heavy and bulky. Here in Spain they have overcome this by cutting out the main trunk and creating a donut shape with the branches. I copied this about five years ago (one of my more spectacular falls) and it looks very nice. However, if you are going to do this, and I recommend it, you have to cut it back to shape every year. To be honest this involves lots of clambering around in the branches with a chainsaw or hedge trimmer so I really would recommend getting a professional in. My fellow garden blogger Tony Tomeo is the tree expert, but as he lives in the US he won’t be able to pop round, but he can offer good advice.

Anyway, pruning the Ficus in to shape has to take place each January because by this time your donut is gradually filling back in again and you need to reshape it. The photos below show the Ficus before and after its annual reshaping.

The Mimosa is a different kettle of fish; although I don’t tend to prune it annually it can be a very bulky tree and grow to over 30ft. In my case the canopy of the tree was gradually edging towards the roof guttering and it was overshadowing the dogs kennel. Whilst some shade is important, the dogs were living in permanent twilight. As with all big pruning exercises, take your time saunter around the tree for a few days and eye up it’s structure and look at the lay of the main branches. Should the tree ask “who are you looking at”, just deny everything and say you are just out for a walk. Never tell them in advance they are going to be pruned, they get skittish and play up.

The eventual outcome was that I have raised the canopy of the Mimosa by removing the main lower branches. Overall I am happy with the outcome as I have taken it away from the roof guttering and the dogs now have more light, though they are now requesting sun glasses. Raybans! would you believe, that of course is ridiculous, dogs in sunglasses. I’m thinking Aviators would probably suit them better. The photos below show the Mimosa before and after its big prune. Mind you it’s still not speaking to me. I’ve also shown you a photo of the prunings from the Mimosa and the Ficus to show how hard I am working.

🌸 Trimming Pink Trumpet Vine. Pink trumpet is a big favourite here in Spain and you can see it everywhere. However, it is a vigorous grower and if you are not careful it will become unmanageable. You have to be very strict with it and severely cut it back each January. At first you can trim Pink Trumpet with shears or a hedge trimmer, but gradually over a few years it’s main stems will thicken and become almost like tree branches. Then you will need to use a saw or chainsaw. But don’t be afraid, you can be quite ruthless with it and leave just a bare stump of 2ft. If you fail to do this then Pink Trumpet will become so strong and vigorous that it will become a major undertaking.

I grow Pink Trumpet in hedges and as a stand alone wrapped around an old Palm tree trunk. The picture below shows the plant around the tree trunk. Every summer this plant throws out a profusion of lovely pink flowers that makes the tree trunk look like part of a firework display. But if I failed to trim it up each January then it would eventually come into my bedroom one Winter night whilst I was asleep and beat me to death with the tree trunk. The photos below show the Pink Trumpet before and after pruning. Oh, I forgot to mention that at the top of the trunk I have a small solar panel that powers solar lights wrapped around the tree; this is very effective and means you get a day night effect from the plant.

🧟‍♀️ Cruella. Many people have asked me whether Cruella my wife really exists and if she is really as wicked as a I report her to be. Let me be quite frank, no plant is safe anywhere in her vicinity. She is so bad with plants that Interflora delivery vans regularly crash outside our house.

Anyway, here she is. I surprised her in her “counting house” the other day. You sound a bit credulous that she has a counting house, but of course she has a “counting house” all the wicked fairy tale characters have one, and she is no exception. She told me that she was counting the collections from our Church over the Christmas period. But, I don’t know all the collecting tins for our local orphanage were stolen over Christmas and she started laughing when someone told her about it.

Cruella in her Counting House


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.

2 thoughts on “The big chop down has started – and I fell off a ladder”

  1. Oh my! That ficus looks like way too much work; but it loos good for all the abuse. In Los Angeles, they often get pollarded, but in summer when the bark gets roasted! It is so sad. They trees regenerate, but then peel apart over the following few years.
    I just featured an orange trumpet vine known as ‘flame vine’. The article will be out in a few days. It is uncommon because it does not have nice foliage in spring and summer. However, the flashy orange bloom is spectacular in winter.
    Is that mimosa an oleander?


    1. Hi Tony, yes it’s an oleander and I love the flowers, but they are so short lived and I then spend months cleaning up the flowers and leaves. But, hey ho that’s why we love gardening. I shall look out for your post on the Flame Vine and might give it a go.

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