Well the Winter cut down continues and the excitement is building; I can’t sleep at night as I am constantly planning the next stage. My overall plan is to build things up to a crescendo by working up to the big hedges along the front lawn, then finish with a flourish by reshaping the large bay tree back into its donut shape – such fun!
OK, I accept that some people – a few – don’t get excited by the big cut down, but the least you could do is get out there and do a bit of cutting back, your garden will benefit and so will your health. Speaking of health, gardening is one of the healthiest things you can do. However, and unfortunately, Cruella (my wife) has gone back to England for a couple of weeks (she told me it is the manadatory period of mourning for the cat). This in effect means that from my point of view gardening stops being healthy and becomes an “extreme sport”. In her past absences I have achieved the following: smashed my skull open to the bone, fallen into numerous hedges, fallen off of so many ladders that I have been given an award, almost bled to death on two occasions, got trapped in the compost heap and flooded the garden.
Anyway enough of this rambling, let’s get on with the gardening.
9th January: Things I have been doing lately.
🌷Pruning Roses. Now is the time to cut back your Roses. Be brave, start by cutting out all growth that’s crossing over, then cutback weak stems, then go for it cut the whole thing back by two thirds. I know it looks extreme, but Roses love it and will reward you with more blooms. Don’t feed yet, wait till March. The photos below show my Rose beds in their freshly pruned state, in a few weeks time they will spring into growth. By the way, before you ask, I haven’t shown you the pruning stage because it involves severe loss of blood and multiple scratching and cuts, so much that people are asking me if I am self harming.
🧝♀️ Cutting back Dame de Noche. Everyone in Spain should have the lovely night scenting Dame de Noche. If you have one, now is the time for the big cut back. Mature plants should be cut back by at least two thirds. Cut just above a leaf node and aim to develop a rounded shape. If you are growing against a wall then aim to create a fan effect coming out from the wall. The photos below show my Dame de Noche prior to pruning and after its very fetching haircut.
🌾 Cutting back grasses. Now is the time to cut back your large ornamental grasses. I have a large Fountain grass that I only cut back slightly last year in the hope of creating a bigger grass. This was a mistake that I paid for in weak growth. So be brave cut your grasses back to a small mound and shape it in a bevelled round shape. The first photo below show my grass in its wilting Winter coat, the second photo shows it severely cut back; my reward will come in May.
🌴 Cutting back Palms. You will probably cut your Palms back two or three times a year and it is important to keep this discipline. Not only does it keep the Palms shapely and attractive (#@mePalms), but also it means you are cutting the fronds when they are still green as opposed to cutting them when they have turned brown and have become like iron. My recommendation, from experience, is only cut the smaller Palms yourself, anything that requires the second extension of a ladder can lead to an unexpected trip to hospital.
The first photo below shows some Canary Palms that I have grown in an island on our front path. These require cutting twice a year to make the path passable. The second photo shows the newly trimmed Palms. The effect you are looking for is that the fronds are standing upright, they will eventually drop below the horizontal by the next time they are due a trim.
✂️ Espalier Figs. Regular followers of this blog (and you are legion) will know that I have been growing a fig espalier up the wall of our outside kitchen for a number of years. The espalier process is very slow as you are bending and shaping a plant against its natural shape. But anyway, now is the time to prune Figs espalier or otherwise. Once the leaves are all off the tree quickly starts to show next years buds. This is the point when you prune them just before they go into leaf.
The first photo shows my espalier before I began to prune. The second photo shows the newly trimmed fig. Note that with espalier you have to be brutal and cut back to the main trunk and your selected side shoots.
The benefit of this process is that you get excellent stem cuttings. Dip the tip of each each one in hormone rooting powder and then place them into a pot, planting close to the sides. When they eventually root re-pot them and you have lovely new fig trees for you or for your friends. The photo below shows my potential new fig trees settling into their pot.
☠️ Killing broadleaved weeds on the lawn. If you have a lawn (I am not including artificial grass) then this is the time to kill broadleaved weeds on your lawn before they have time to set seed. Unlike most parts of the world, in Spain, our weeds grow fastest in the Winter because they just get scorched off in the Summer. You can’t use just any weedkiller on your lawn, you need to choose a selective weedkiller that will kill the weeds and not your grass.
The photo below shows the start of the process, the weedkiller I use, its victim and my marked up watering can showing its for weedkiller only.