The big blow job is over!

My wife Cruella has just explained to me that the above heading could be misconstrued. I informed her that she was being puerile and that I was talking about the second big winter job of blowing all the dead leaves away after the big Winter Chop Down. I further explained that gardeners eyes and minds are set on higher things than the gutter. I reminded her that Oscar Wilde said “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars”. She asked if this was Kim Wilde’s dad and if Lady Windermere was her greatest fan. Honestly, what more could you ask for in a blog, great literature and gardening. Mind you there has been a huge increase in clicks on this post and I have been invited to lots of parties.

3rd January, Things I have been doing lately:

💨 The big Winter Blow Job.

Anyway, let us turn to other things. I am in England at the moment looking at our English garden and pondering what needs doing. But before I left Spain I did complete the big BJ – I can’t even say it anymore Cruella has ruined it for me.

Those of you who have completed your big Winter Chop Down will know that no matter how well you have cleaned up you will have left leaf detritus behind on both your stoned areas and lawns. It is imperative that you fully clear this away, for if you don’t it will break down to a fine tilth on the stones and encourage weed growth later in the year. Whilst if left on grass the leaves will become wet and rotten and kill patches of grass. If you are lucky enough to have a leaf blower – and every man should – then just use this to blow across the stones and if possible onto the lawn.

The photo below shows me manfully showing those leaves who is boss. As a fashion note I am wearing my cap with the title “head gardener”. Cruella bought me this for me and I got her one that says “kitten murderer”; she wears it with pride.

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I am saying no more – I have had enough of smut

Once you have successfully blown all your leaves onto the lawn then the best thing to do is to mow them up with your mower. This has two clear benefits. Firstly, it saves you the job of having to rake up and bag all the leaves. Secondly, the resultant leaf mould, which has been chopped to a fine tilth can now be placed on to your compost heap. Normally leaves should be composted separately but the chopping of the mower renders them suitable for compost. Don’t worry if you don’t have a lawn just blow or rake the leaves on to a path or drive and then run the mower over them.

The photo below shows me in the final stages of mowing the last remnants of the leaves.

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I am wearing my matching lawn mower t-shirt

🌳 Cutting back a tree in England

This next bit is intended for tree specialists and mainly for my fellow garden blogger Tony Tomeo (tonytomeo@wordpress.com). The tree shown in the photo below grows outside one of the windows in our English house. As you can see from the photo it has a propensity to try and grow over the window. This means that every year I have to perch precariously on a ladder and try and reach over to trim it with a hedge trimmer. Ideally what I would like to do next year is to cut it back to about 5ft leaving just bare branches. It has an excellent structure of thick branches which can just be seen in the photo. I assume it would then releaf in the Spring and I would then be able to keep it trimmed at a correct hight to suit me. Comments please.

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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 blow job is over!”

  1. Seriously?! Is that thing Cotoneaster lacteus? I just posted an article about it yesterday. I am only guessing. It is difficult to identify from this picture; but I do see a cluster of red berries in the upper right corner. Anyway, if you prune it regularly and severely, it will neither bloom nor produce the bright red berries. If you are shearing it regularly, It may not be blooming or fruiting anyway. It should be pruned as winter ends, about now, or about this time next year. If you prune it too late, the bark is likely to be scalded by the sudden exposure. New growth regenerates to partly shade the bark before the middle of summer. If you like, you can pollard it, by removing all stem growth to expose the main trunks. Of course, it will be necessary to make some big cuts, but the wounds will compartmentalize as new growth regenerates. You can leave lower growth if you like the hedging effect to obscure the view of whatever is behind it. Either way, you will have options with the growth that regenerates afterward.
    If you like, you can cut back to the same ‘knuckles’, every winter. The knuckles are where you made the big cuts. If you cut back to them annually, they become distended, and compartmentalize the wounds very efficiently. If you cut below the knuckles, the trunks will need to form new ones. If you leave stubs above the knuckles, the wounds will not compartmentalize effectively, and decay will spread into the knuckles and main trunks. Proper pollarding involves pruning cleanly back to the main knuckles, not below or above them. Because it is best to not remove knuckles once developed, it is best to prune to the desired height the first time, although, if necessary, you can prune lower later. It is difficult to predict how tall new growth will get during they year, and it may even get into the window. It would look best if you only pruned it once annually, rather than pollarding it in winter, and then pruning it down during the summer, although you may need to prune it back from the wall a bit. A pollarded shrub would look best if the lower trunks were kept bare. This would involve pruning all the growth off initially, and then pruning off what develops during the year, leaving only growth on the terminal knuckles. After a few procedures, less growth will try to develop on the bare trunks. English style pollarding involves leaving single short stubs above the knuckles to elongate them slightly annually. However, I would recommend just pollarding back to the knuckles without leaving stubs, particularly if you want to limit height. That is how we do it here.
    Another option to simple ‘pollarding’ would be ‘alternating canes’. This starts out just like pollarding or copicing. (Copicing is pollarding without leaving a trunk and limbs. It is cutting back to the ground, and leaving only a stump for new growth to grow from. Between the two techniques, I would recommend pollarding, although copicing is lower.) For the first year after pollarding or copicing, new growth comes back with a vengeance. If you prefer to prune with alternating canes, you would prune out only the largest and most obtrusive of stems, leaving shorter stems that are a bit lower than the ‘ceiling’ of where you want the height to be limited to. The remaining stems will be able to bloom the following spring, and produce red berries for the following autumn. Growth that develops from the knuckles will be less vigorous than it would be with real pollarding because there is already a bit of growth remaining. Therefore, by the end of the following year, the new growth will be about where you want it to be. Then, the following winter, you can prune out the older canes that bloomed and fruited, leaving the thinner canes that grew that year. They will bloom and fruit the following year. So, every winter, newer canes replace older canes.
    I am sorry to leave such a long reply.

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    1. Hi Tony, Thank you for your very fulsome comments. You are correct it is a Contoneaster Lacteus; I looked it up on the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) web site and you were spot on. I will follow your advice, and I think I will try quite a hard cut back in March (if I am in England), by then most of the frost should be gone. If I don’t get it this year then I will do it next year.

      Thank you once again this is very helpful, especially as I have probably been pruning off most of the potential berries.

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