Cruella has fled and I am concentrating on structure

Those of you who read my last post will know that Cruella (my wife) had failed to take care of the garden in my absence. The resulting row resulted in her staying in her room all night and refusing to come out. In the morning when I took in her normal morning cup of bone gruel she was gone. I knew she hadn’t been gone long because her perch was still slightly warm. Once I saw her favourite purple broomstick was missing I knew she had fled to England to seek consolation with our idiot son. This was confirmed later in the day when the booby trap she had left for me went off in the shed and covered me in dead rats and bat excrement, but at least there was a lovely note attached.

Moving on and putting aside Cruella’s antics it’s time to discuss one of the most important periods in the gardening calendar. During November and December you should be reshaping and bringing back structure to your garden before you begin the big January cutback. This means cutting back all that lush Summer growth that has now gone floppy and brown. It also means clearing the lines in your garden to give it shape, structure and order. In November you should concentrate on shrubs, perennials, paths and sight lines and you should also start to clear up leaves. Next month we will be looking at Roses, borders and splitting plants; but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

19th November. Things I have been doing lately:

⛅️ Cloud pruning Ficus. I have a number of cloud pruned plants in my garden. I do this because they give otherwise clumpy plants an eye catching structure that gives form to the garden and adds a point of interest. The Ficus in question sits at the edge of the drive in my dry garden and over the year will gradually get out of shape. As Ficus is relatively slow growing this once a year haircut keeps it in shape.

The first photo below shows the Ficus in its overgrown state. The second shows it newly reshaped. Don’t ask me what the shape is, I call it “Venus at rest” Cruella calls it fat lady with a big bosom. I deliberately expose some of the trunk as it is a lovely white colour and it glares out in the Sun. Click on each photo for an enlarged view.

🦜 Tidying up Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia). This plant is a Spanish garden favourite and can be found in most gardens growing in a large clump. To keep this plant looking its best you need to periodically remove outer stems and dead growth. This along with regular deadheading will give you a plant with year round interest that adds real structure to your garden. The first photo below shows the Streletzia in its overgrown, floppy and generally untidy state. The second shows it mid prune, and the final photo shows it standing upright as a real garden statement. Click on each photo for an enlarged view.

🛏 Putting Canna to bed. Now is the time to cutback your Canna to ensure the rhizomes (ugly bulbs) can begin to swell during the Winter ready to burst with growth in a couple of months. Apart from a bit of mistreatment by Cruella the Canna are basically left to die back so that all the goodness from the leaves can be drawn back down into the rhizome. Once this has been achieved they should look like the photos below. Click on each photo for an enlarged view.

Once they are in this state the trick is to cut them back to the correct size. If you cut them back too short right to the ground then heavy rain would mean they get waterlogged and rot. If you cut them back but leave the stems too long, then they will still think they can grow this year and will try to put on foliage which in turn will deplete the rhizome for next years flowering . The correct “Goldilocks” length is about 4-6 inches. Which will tell the plant flowering is over for this year and still leave the stems long enough to stop water logging. The photos below show the correct lengths. Click on each photo for an enlarged view.

🐲 Dealing with brutish Oleander. Although Oleander is one of my favourite plants, left to itself it just becomes an unshapely brute which adds no real structure or form to your garden. Here in our village of Campoverde in Spain most of the gardens have clumps of Oleander. But they never see the best of the plant as it is just left to grow into an amorphous shapeless lump that only gets noticed when it flowers. Kept shapely the Oleander will provide form and structure to your garden even when it is not flowering.

I have two Oleander in different areas of my garden. I planted both of them about 8 years ago and they have been sitting there slowly but surely growing and flowering. Then suddenly over the last year one of them turned into a brute overwhelming a small border of Aeonium Schwarzkopf, whilst the other proceeded to flop in an unsightly manner. The first photo below shows the brute overwhelming the poor Aeonium, whilst the second shows the Fosbury Flop. Click on each photo for an enlarged view.

The photos below show both plants cut back. I know this looks cruel, but by doing this at this time of year you will allow for new growth and subsequent flowering next year. Click on each photo for an enlarged view.

🌳 Reshaping the Californian False Pepper. There are not many trees that you reshape at this time of the year, but the false pepper is one. This is another plant which is quite common in our village. In my garden the false pepper provides a real statement as it draws your eye down the drive as you enter our property. In most gardens these can be allowed to grow into what looks like a Weeping Willow. But in my case it is too close to the swimming pool and it’s long tendril like stems get whipped about by wind and cover my swimming pool area in thousands of tiny leaflets.

To overcome this problem I had the tree professionally pollarded last year and now intend to maintain it in an attractive weeping form, but without all the attendant mess. The first photo shows the tree getting ready to get away from me and become a messy giant once again. The second photo shows it pruned back. I know it doesn’t look quite right, but give it a couple of weeks and it will be lovely again. Click on each photo for an enlarged view.

🌿 Adding to the compost bin. As I walk around our village I see numerous bags of garden waste left out for the local Ayuntiemiento to collect and recycle. Yet strangely the same people who leave garden waste out for recycling will happily drive 5 miles to a garden centre to buy bags of compost for their garden. By getting yourself a cheap compost bin you can recycle most of your garden waste and turn it into lovely compost that you won’t need to buy. I am not going to go on about composting here as it is almost time for my annual composting special post and I don’t want to spoil your excitement. The photo below shows one of my compost bins filling up with the all the prunings and cuttings from today.

I like the way the rays of Sun shine down on the compost; it’s as if God is telling you something!

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.

One thought on “Cruella has fled and I am concentrating on structure”

  1. You know, my cannas have never rotted. I noticed that in Oklahoma (where I was very surprised to see them at all) they were not cut back. (At least those that I noticed did not get cut back.) They get buried by snow, and then groomed of dead foliage as the snow melts. That is not an option here where there is no snow. I had always cut them to the ground. Only a few years ago, I was told that I should not do so. This year, I will leave them with stubble, or at least leave stubble on some of them, just to see if the perform any differently. I suspect that they may not rot here because the weather is not continuously damp through winter. Even though we can get a good volume of rain (on the rainy side of the mountains), it comes only in distinct storms, with dry weather in between.


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