I am continuing with the big winter cutback, and the end is almost in sight. The really big job over the last week or so has been cutting back my hedges. I have about 150 metres of hedges that consist of a wide variety of plants. If you don’t have a hedge, then you really should consider planting one, they are a joy to behold for a number of reasons:
- they present continuous flowering for about 9 months of the year
- provide shelter and nesting for birds
- they are a larder for bees and other pollinators
- they are easily maintained, just requiring a winter cutback
- they provide a living alternative to walls
I am thinking about writing a novella entitled “in praise of hedges”. Anyway on with the gardening.
24th January 2022. Things I have been doing lately:
Cutting back hedges. The annual cutback of hedges needs to be done before the end of January as most hedge plants have a very short dormant period before they are back in bud again. If you want a hedge then be brave and pack it out with all your favourites. Don’t be tempted to go for one type of plant, as you should be aiming for a floriferous wall of planting rather than monoculture greenery.
I pack my hedge plants relatively close together and encourage them to fight for light. I have to act as the referee to stop any one plant taking over, but they all grow strong and flower like crazy. Just for information, in case you are thinking of planting a hedge, my hedge includes the following:
- Pink Trumpet Vine
- Jasmine variegated
- White Mulberry (self seeded)
- Pomegranate (self seeded)
The photos below show the hedge from various angles prior to me beginning the big cutback. Click on each photo for a larger view.
The cut back process is simple. First you need to trim the sides of the hedge; but don’t trim them straight, instead try to angle your cut so that the bottom of the hedge is slightly wider than the top. By doing this you will stop the top shading the bottom and leading to sparse growth at the bottom. Next, you need to square off the top. The ideal tool is electric hedge trimmers to create a nice even level that lets every plant get some light. I use a small platform for this work as it saves me bobbing up and down steps. I also have long handled lopers ready for the particularly tough stems.
The photos below show the big cutback in action. I think I look particularly dashing as I sweep all before me. The final photo shows my annual cuttings victory dance. Click on each photo for a larger view.
And finally some photos of my hedges cutback for another year. They will start growing again within a month, and then off we go again. Isn’t God wonderful to provide us with such joy. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Pruning Sago Palms. Many gardens have sago palms in my part of Spain. They provide a bit of the exotic mixed with Jurrasic Park. You can if you like just leave them to themselves and let them grow into a big spikey ball, or, you can trim them back to give shape and interest. My preference is to do the latter.
When pruning sago palms my method is to use long handled lopers to prune up from the bottom towards the top but leaving at least two rows of stems at the top. By leaving two rows you are providing yourself with an insurance policy in case anything happens to one of them. Also if you prune from the top you are cutting out the growth part of the plant and will probably damage it. You can prune sagos this way whether they are in the ground or in a pot.
The photos below show my large sago before and after its prune followed by a smaller plant in a pot. Click on each photo for a larger view.
I am facing the final battle. Apart from trimming up a few ground cover lantanas etc that is more or less the big cutback completed. There is only one final obstacle that stands in my way. And it is a big one. Yes, the giant Ficus awaits our annual battle. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I pruned and shaped this tree about 10 years ago to leave it with a doughnut type hole in its centre. For its part the tree has never forgiven me and viciously protests against its annual cutback. I have fallen out of this tree more times than I care to forget. It has given me vicious lacerations on my skull. Broken my fingers and hurt my back so much that sometimes I look like Quasimodo.
To date I have always eventually triumphed in our annual battle, but to be honest I think I might just be too old for another beating. I am thinking of bringing in a contractor; I will let you know what I decide. In the meantime here is a photo of my opponent; he gets bigger every year, whilst I shrink.