This is the second instalment of the big winter cut back posts. The big Winter cut back is an essential thing for all Spanish gardeners to do in January; failure to do this will result in your garden looking, tired, untidy and generally unloved. If you are following this blog closely – and I know you are – then you will remember that the first Winter cut back post covered mainly Roses. This post deals with climbers, hedges and statement plants. The final post will deal with trees, and this is the stage I dread, as it involves chainsaws, ladders, great heights and generally falls and spilled blood. But hey, we gardeners are made of tough stuff and the local hospital keeps special blood plasma for me. Talking of blood did you see “Dracula” on the BBC over Christmas? Cruella (my wife) was enthralled as she thought it was a documentary and kept telling me it reminded her of her childhood. Right, are you ready? let’s get on with it.
9th January: Things I have been doing lately
🏡 Recreating views. If you look at your garden there are certain vantage points that creat views and vistas within your garden. These are the positions in the garden that look at their best viewed from a certain standpoint. I have a number of these in my garden but the one I want to deal with is the view as you move down our drive. This is probably the least important, but sets the tone of the garden for those arriving by car.
The end of our drive has been composed (this is a fancy term for lots of plants working together) to present a nice view whilst at the same time hiding the garden shed from direct view. The first photo below shows this view before it is pruned back. The second photo shows that I have cut back the hedge, trimmed the trunk of the Peruvian False Pepper tree and reduced its hanging branches (this tree is common in Spain and looks a bit like a weeping willow). (Click on each photo for an enlarged view).
You can see my battery leaf blower in the second photo. This is a Black and Decker model (others are available). I have included this because it is one of the most useful tools you can have here in Campoverde. Because we are surrounded by Pine trees, pine needles are a constant clean up problem. This light weight battery model will not do the job on heavy leaf clearance but it is ideal for this type of work and saves you getting out your big blower (no pun intended).
🥔 Cutting back Solanum. The Solanum is a climbing plant that is a member of the potato family. This is a prolific flowerer a great climber and easy to maintain. I grew this plant from a cutting and have grown it up the side of our outside kitchen. It happily grows all Summer (can grow to about 25ft) and flowers like crazy. In the Winter all you have to do is use a hedge trimmer to trim it back close to the wall by taking off all the side shoots. This first photo shows the Solanum before it’s trim back, whilst the second shows it newly pruned. (Click on each photo for an enlarged view). At the risk of making this blog into a “tool blog” the small platform you see in the photos is a great aid to trimming hedges etc as unlike a ladder you don’t have to move along so often.
🌱 Trimming back Jasmine. Jasmine is one of those plants which is every where in Spain, but all too often it is a sulky heap of leaves hanging off a trellis which it is doing its best to pull off the wall. The reason for the Jasmine looking so sad is that it has grown up and then flopped over. By flopping over it kills the growth beneath and leaves you with what looks like a healthy plant but really it is just disguising decay. If you look at the first photo below the Jasmine looks healthy but only because the new growth is hanging over the old growth.
The second photo shows the Jasmine trimmed back ready to get flowering across the whole plant. If your Jasmine has just gone too far and a lot of it has died back, then be brave and cut it right down to the ground. You won’t get flowers this year, but the reinvigorated plant will grow like crazy and flower next year.
🌴 Trimming climbers around an old Palm tree trunk. In Spain it is often necessary to cut down old Palm trees or those damaged by the Palm Weevil. Most people when faced with an unwanted Palm just have it cut down leaving an ugly stump in the ground; or, even worse try to cut the trunk down to about 3ft and then plonk a table top onto it and pretend it is a garden table. The latter approach never works because it is always in the wrong place and you end up sitting around this makeshift table in obscure corners of your garden.
If you have to get rid of a Palm cut the trunk to about 12ft, cover it in mesh and then grow climbers up it; it can look spectacular in the Summer. But like everything else you need to cut it back in January. The first photo below shows my old Palm tree at the height of Summer covered in climbers including Pink Trumpet Vine. The second photo shows it ready for a trim. The third photo shows it newly trimmed with a hedge trimmer. (Click on each photo for an enlarged view).
👩🏿🦳 Cutting back Dame de Noche. Everyone in Spain should have at least one Dame de Noche (night scented Jasmine). This plant is not what you would call “a looker” but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in scent. If treated properly and pruned at the correct times this plant will produce an intoxicating scent throughout long Summer evenings and is especially valuable if planted close to where you sit out in the evening.
Dame de Noche is pruned twice a year but in different ways. After it’s first flowering in late May/June cut it back by one third and it will flower again from August into the early Autumn. In the January cut back you need to take away two thirds of the plant; be brave it will come back just as vigorously. The first photo below shows my Dame de Noche prior to its second prune. The second photo shows the shorn plant ready to spring into action by mid February. (Click on each photo for an enlarged view).
🌳 Trimming hedges. This is the second biggest job in the annual cut back as I have lots of mixed flowering hedges. As I walk around our village of Campoverde I see many hedges spilling over walls and fences. This not only gives an untidy look to your garden, but also, it reduces flowering potential as often the hedges are exhausted by flowering on over extended branches. How much you cut back is up to you, but try to trim to a natural boundary like a wall or fence. In addition it is important that you do not trim the sides square as this will just shade the lower branches and lead to die back. Instead try to bevel the trim so that it is wider at the bottom and narrows towards the top.
The photos below give an overall impression of the mammoth task I undertake in hedge trimming – I’m not seeking sympathy only understanding. (Click on each photo for an enlarged view).