The terrible pun in the title above was a feeble attempt to keep everyone focused on the Big Winter Chop Down. It really is important that you get everything chopped back, pruned and tidy this month. If you leave it too late then growth can happen very quickly in Spain and you can find yourself having to cutback just when buds are appearing. Anyway, with that dire warning ringing in your ears let’s get this show on the road.
9th January – Things I have been doing lately
🌳 Cutting back hedges. I have over 100 metres of mixed hedges. These consist of Hibiscus, Bignonia, Pink Trumpet Vine, Plumbago, Roses, Bougainvillea, Jasmine a self seeded Pomegranate and a Partridge in a Peartree, ok I lied about the last one. All of these plants intertwine and are encouraged to fight for light and space, which in turn produces a vivid wall of colour and interest for at least 9 months of the year. Over the summer the hedge can grow in parts to over 10ft tall, which means it all has to be brought back into shape during the big chop down.
Normally I bring everything down to line up with the front wall and railings and square it off over the lawn to make sure there is no overhang during winter which could kill off parts of the lawn. This includes using a hedge trimmer, lopers, secateurs all of which I utilise precariously from a mobile platform. If you have hedges then you have to be cruel to be kind, if you don’t cut back then all you will have is straggly leggy growth poking over your railing or wall. Many gardens in Spain have this untidy look which can be seen as you walk along the road. By cutting your hedges back hard in January you are guaranteeing dense flower filled growth. You only need do it once a year but it is definitely worth it. The top two photos below show the hedge before its haircut and the bottom two show it newly trimmed (click on each photo for an enlarged view).
🌺 Cutting back Canna. You no doubt remember that I planted some lovely Canna earlier this year to take the place of Pampas grass that had become a bit unruly. The Canna have been a joy and provided a lovely statement plant in a key area of my garden. The Canna have been allowed to die back so that all the goodness goes back down into the soil and the rhizomes (a bit like bulbs but uglier). The die back process is important for Canna if you cut off the top growth too soon then you are denying the plant all its sustenance for next year; and that means weedy growth and no flowers.
Because we do not have frost in our part of Spain it is safe to leave Cannas in the ground over Winter. When all the leaves have gone brown and the stems are starting to collapse, you just need to cut the main stems of the Canna back to between 4-6 inches from the ground. If you cutback any less the plant could start secondary growth during warm weather which will ruin next year’s flowers. If you cut back any more then you risk getting too close to the rhizomes and damaging them.
If you haven’t got Cannas yet, then what is stopping you, get on with it. You can purchase rhizomes on line from respectable growers in the U.K. and they will deliver in Spain. Or, you could just wait till I divide my Cannas in a couple of years – I will undercut anyone’s price in my new Secondary Canna market. The photos below show the dying Canna and then their new cutback status. They should miraculously be back by Easter; remind you of any one (click on each photo for an enlarged view).
🌾 Cutting back grasses. Apart from my lawns I don’t really have any other grasses. The only exception; after my brief dalliance with Pampas, is Pennisetum (Fountain grass). This grass is popular in Spain and can be seen in many gardens and municipal plantings. This is a lovely showy grass with beautiful bobbing seed heads lofted on long graceful blades. Normally I copy the municipal gardeners and cut this back to about 25cm in January. However, this means that the grass never really gets very big, and yet I have seen quite big ones in some gardens. So by way of experiment, this year, I am just cutting off the seedheads and seeing if I can grow the overall size of the plant. I will let you know what happens. By the way if you fancy growing this grass, remember that all grasses need much more water than their desiccated looks would lead you to believe. The photos below show the Fountain grass prior to its trim and then afterwards in its new slightly reduced state. (click on each photo for an enlarged view).