Cruella is still fragile concerning the departure of the idiot son, I have only to mention him and she flees to his room and dives into his bed. I know what you are thinking this must be making it very hard for me to get on with the big winter cut back, and you are right, but Cruella fails to see my point. Anyway I managed to get her out of the house for a few hours whilst I got on with the important things.
I suggested to her that she should make one of her favourite meals, “Witches pie”, see photo below. If you don’t know this particular dish, the main ingredients are: Eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing. Anyway I cleverly threw away all her Lizard’s legs and she had to go shopping. The things we gardeners have to do.
13th January 2022. Things I have been doing lately:
Pruning Roses. You need to start pruning your roses now as they will have already started to bud and you don’t want them to waste their energy just for you to prune it off.
Now I am going to start this section with a health warning . Pruning roses always results in considerable blood loss, no matter how careful you are. And if you are an old idiot like me who also takes aspirin to thin his blood, then you are going to bleed like a stuck pig. And this is where alcohol comes in. You need to get yourself some antiseptic alcohol from your local Farmacia and be ready to apply this to the many cuts you will receive from your roses. I don’t want to overly alarm you, but 11 million people die of sepsis each year, and we gardeners are prime candidates with all our cuts and hands in the soil etc. So why not take precautions. The first photo below shows some of the rose inflicted cuts to my legs and arms, I daren’t show you my hands as they are X rated. The second photo shows my alcohol, go get some. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Pruning climbing roses. You prune climbing and standard roses in different ways. With climbing roses you are aiming to keep height and main stem length. This means you do not cut back the main upward growth, instead you should aim to prune back side shoots (to an upward facing bud) by as much as two thirds. This will push all the initial growth into the main stem and the side stems will soon grow out as summer progresses and give you lots of flowers.
When pruning all roses start by cutting out any diseased, weak or crossing growth. Then, in the case of climbers, stand back and tuck in to your trellis or support all the stems you want to retain. After this prune back all the side shoots by two thirds and finish by tying in any long loose upward stems to stop them being wrecked by strong winds. Finally check for suckers that may be coming from below the soil just by the roots, remove these by twisting them rather than using secateurs. That’s it, done for another year.
The first photos below show my climbing roses before their annual prune, followed by the pruning and tying in process in action, and then finally the finished plants. If you cant see any difference, then I despair as it took me two hours to prune these four roses. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Pruning standard roses. When pruning standard roses the process is completely different to climbing roses. The overall aim is to reduce the size of the whole plant by at least a third, but you can take it back by two thirds, and even in extremis right back almost to the soil. However, you would only cut a rose right back if you were aiming to regenerate an old plant or one that has been severely weakened by a pest or disease.
Just as with climbing roses, start by pruning out all diseased, weak or crossing stems. You are aiming to leave an open space at the centre of the plant much like a wine glass shape. The pruning cut is the same for all roses. Go to the stem you are going to prune and then follow it down to the nearest outward facing bud that is roughly at the height you wish to prune. Cut a sloping cut with your secateurs just above the bud. The rose will grow from this point and the outward facing bud will ensure it does not grow towards the centre.
The first photos below show my main rose beds prior to pruning, whilst the last photo show some of my my pruned beds. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Cutting back grasses and bamboo. Many gardens in Spain have a variety of grasses and bamboos and these are prime candidates to cut back now. If you leave them then they will just become big lumps of green that will look like an explosion in a cushion factory. Instead, if you cut back now you will get fresh invigorated growth and it also gives you the opportunity to rake out unsightly dead growth.
There is no great science or skill to cutting back grasses. Just get your shears or better still a hedge trimmer and cut them back to a low mound. Once you have cut them back, put on your gardening gloves and rake your fingers in and out of the mound to remove any old growth. The first photo shows my grass ready for its annual trim. The next photo shows my inimitable grass raking technique; don’t be afraid to get right in there and rake all the dead stuff out (who cares about snakes – only kidding). Finally you can see my grass reduced to a mound. The hole in the middle tells me that it is time to subdivide the plant, but I am too tired today. Click on each photo for a larger view.
When dealing with bamboo you can be much more radical and cut it back almost to the ground. I only have one bamboo plant that I have encased within four sunken tiles to stop potential spreading. To be honest I envisaged its tall stems waving in the wind beside my water feature, and that as a side benefit I would get lots of canes for the garden. But instead it has failed to thrive and I still lack canes for the garden. The photos below show my puny bamboo before and after its radical prune. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Trimming Myrtle. If you do not have Myrtle-leaf Milkwort in your garden then you are missing a treat. This long flowering shrub, thrives in full sun and needs very little water. Put it in the right place in your garden and you will have a show stopper. I have grown mine at the entrance to what I call my “technical area”, where I have my potting benches and compost bins. Cruella calls it “the dump”. I grow this plant so that it obscures the entrance to the technical area, and I can hide from Cruella. It also forms a magnificent backdrop when I have concerts with the plants on the potting bench. I swear that the Myrtle sways as we all belt out “…riding along on a crest of a wave and the sun is shining bright”. The photos below show Myrtle before and after her styling (real ladies get styled not pruned). Click on each photo for a larger view.
Cruella has designed clothing to help Tango see. Regular readers of this blog will know that we have one maurading Labrador left. The untimely death of his brother has left Tango as the lonely blind Labrador. In an effort to help Tango see her better Cruella has made a costume that she swears will enable him to follow her around. From the photo below you can see that things are not going well so far.