Tag Archives: frost

Prevent snow damage in your garden

Prevent snow damage in your garden

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Pretty as the snow may be, there are situations where it can cause damage in your garden that will take some time to rectify. If you know what to expect, you can reasonably prevent snow damage in your garden, or at least the worst of it.

Firstly, the weight of snow build up can bend and distort the shape of your ornamental shrubs. While the damage is not permanent it can take a lot of preparatory work and months of growing to restore the preferred form.  It is very frustrating to have mis-shapen plants after the prolonged work getting the shapes right.

Damage can be more extreme

In extreme cases the weight of snow can cause branches to snap, a much more permanent type of damage .  In this case prune out the damaged area before growth resumes in the spring.

prevent snow damage in your garden
The weight of snow can cause branches to break

That snow lying on top of some plants can actually kill off the growth. This will leave large brown patches of dead leaves that will take up to a year to be replaced. Bay, especially if formed into a globe, ball or lollipop where snow can sit on top, are particularly vulnerable.

To prevent snow damage in your garden you can use a broom or rake to shake off the snow. If the snow has settled and then frozen it will be harder to remove. If it has become ice then its best to leave it until the weather warms up.

This of course assumes that the snow is an occasional visitor.  If you get snow on a regular basis then a more pro-active approach is needed. This may involve gathering or binding shrubs together with tape, or covering with fleece. Even then it may pay to shake the snow off before it builds up.


Simple rose pruning rules

Simple rose pruning rules

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There are seemingly many rules to consider when pruning roses, so daunting that most people choose not to bother for fear of causing more harm than good.

But some simple rose pruning rules applied at the right time will easily enhance your roses regardless of what they are.

Simple rose pruning rules

Consider first, does the rose flower just once? If so prune in late summer after flowering is completed.

The objective is – as with all pruning – to keep the plants free of dead, diseased and damaged wood (the three D’s). Crossing or rubbing branches and spindly growth should also be removed.

Avoid any excessive build-up of the older, less productive wood that can crowd out the centre of the plant. Opening up the plant to form a goblet shape is the plan.

Simple rose pruning rules

Remove older branches from the centre if necessary. If they become leggy and bare at the base, remove one or two stems back near the ground to encourage new growth from the base.

If on the other hand, you don’t know if the plant flowers just once,  prune your roses in February to March. Use the simple rose pruning rules below, as described by the RHS.

Prune in late winter before dormancy breaks

The idea here is to make the cuts before the plant breaks dormancy in the spring.

  • Cuts should be no more than 5mm (¼ in) above a bud and should slope away from it, so that water does not collect on the bud. This applies to all cuts, whether removing dead wood, deadheading or annual pruning.
  • Cut to an outward-facing bud to encourage an open-centred shape. With roses of spreading habit, prune some stems to inward-facing buds to encourage more upright growth.
  • If a dormant bud is not visible, just cut to an appropriate height
    Make your cuts clean and neat using clean and sharp secateurs. For thicker stems use loppers or a pruning saw.
  • Prune and dieback to healthy wood. Cut out dead and diseased stems and spindly and crossing stems. Aim for well-spaced stems that allow free air flow.
  • On established roses, cut out poorly flowering old wood. Saw away old stubs that have failed to produce new shoots
  • With the exception of climbing roses and shrub roses, prune all newly planted roses hard to encourage vigorous shoots.
  • Trace suckers back to the roots from which they grow and pull them, rather than cut them, away.

So there it is, simple rose pruning rules that we can all follow to keep your roses easily maintained, and enhanced.

From the ground up can show you how to prune your roses and other shrubs.

And if you need any extra guidance, search the RHS website for rose pruning, where everything is explained very clearly.

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Preparing the garden for winter

Preparing the garden for winter

Garden jobs for winter, jobs in the garden for winter, your garden in November, preparing the garden for winter

As the flower garden slows down for the year, the door opens for next year. Now is the time save plants for next year, plant for spring, and let winter help you out with the hard work.

When dahlias blacken with the first frost cut back the foliage, then lift the tubers, clean and trim off the thin long roots. Stand them upside down to make sure they’re dry before storing them away in dry compost, or wrapped in newspaper. Or if frosts don’t touch your garden, mark where they are and leave them in situ.

preparing the garden for winter
Dahlias should be cut back when blackened by frost

There is still time to buy and plant spring flowing bulbs. Choose your supplier carefully and you’ll get quality and a bargain to boot; wholesale suppliers are already reducing prices on remaining stock. My favourite is Gee Tee (gee-tee.co.uk), I’ve used them for nearly 20 years. You can continue to plant bulbs into the first weeks of December.

If your soil is heavier, get it turned before the frosts come. Just dig, lift and leave, and let the frosts break down the clods for you. As the temperatures drop these lumps will form a perfect growing medium, ideal for areas where you’ll be sowing seed – vegetable beds or borders for annuals.

Dormant season is busy for gardeners

The dormant months – from leaf fall through spring budding – are also the perfect time to prune trees and shrubs. Christopher Lloyd maintained that the best time was when you had time and secateurs in your hand. And I agree, but the down side is that you may have to sacrifice the plant’s crop of flowers or fruit.

Timely pruning will encourage flowers and fruit, create better shape and promote strong growth. Trees that will benefit most are those that will “bleed” if pruned when sap is flowing—including apples, pears and figs, acers, most deciduous ornamental trees, and vines including grapes and wisteria.

Many roses can also be pruned when it gets cold, floribunda, hybrid tea and climbers. In fact if it’s not rambler, you can prune it in winter.

Those ornamental deciduous shrubs that have doubled in size this year can be brought back into line while dormant. They’ll look like a skeleton for a few weeks, but will come back with better shape and vigour.

The golden rules of pruning are the three D’s – dead, damaged and diseased – remove them all while creating an open and uncongested shape. For roses that is usually a “goblet”. With fruit trees Monty Don advocates the should be open enough that a pigeon can fly through.

And if you need any extra guidance, the RHS website explains everything very clearly. Enjoy your garden this winter.

Garden task for November, preparing the garden for winter


Mulching This week in the garden Week 8

Mulching This week in the garden Week 8

Mulching This week in the garden week 8
After a dry period, maybe the longest since early in the year, I have been able to take care of some more tidying and mulching. 

That has involved taking back the old stems and withered foliage that had been attractive with a little winter frost. Now the frost has gone it just looks plain untidy without it.

Mulching borders
Borders with a little mulch to protect against any sharp frost

But it did provide some protection to crowns and emerging shoots when the occasional frost did arrive. Now that untidy protection has gone, a good mulch of home brewed compost is needed to protect for a few weeks. This will be worked into the ground by bugs and worms.

For me mulching is not about weed suppression; I hope the plant density will do most of that for me. It’s about providing a spring nutrition boost, and long-term soil improvement.

In the 3 years since my annual compost production was sufficient, the improvement in flower borders and raised beds has been fantastic. But the underlying silty clay needs to be constantly managed. So a good load each spring and prior to any  new planting keeps it in check.

Home grown compost for mulching

The volume required makes having your own compost supply essential. My 8 square meters plus leaf mould bins just about copes with the demand. To buy that in would cost a fortune. getting manure from a local farm delivered starts at about £50. The garden economics I use makes that £45 too much.

The material cleared from the flower borders has formed a new woody layer in the compost heap. Just as well as I have only about 1 cubic meter of compost ready. I have mown the grass once since New Years Day, but there is not enough real growth in it to provide the soft material needed for the next layer. A layer of partially rotted leaves will do instead for now.

Next week is pruning week, with roses, dogwoods and a small tree to attend to. What does not get used for cuttings will be shredded for yet another layer in the compost bin.



This week in the garden Week 7

This week in the garden Week 7

This week in the garden week 7
After a w
eek away for some winter sport and I have come back to – not much change in the garden. Or that is perhaps how it looks at first. A deeper look reveals cyclamen flowering well, primula and polyanthus colour dotted all over the beds, crocus in various stages of life and colours and daffodils not flowering.

Yes, not flowering. At one stage I had suspected that they would all be done and over by the end of January but the irregular cold checks have worked perfectly to delay them. In fact I don’t recall some of the varieties I have being this late in the years in this house.

Good news.

But the early growth in perennials has been checked back again, this week quite severely. Notably Crocosmia and Nerines, but also Osteospermum. This time they may take a while to recover, but in turn means that the first rush of colour in the borders will be pushed back, perhaps smoothing over a gap period I have in mid May.

In the greenhouse everything is rosy. Or perhaps beany. Broad beans and peas are growing well in the vacant greenhouse borders and in pots. This year I have not applied any water to them, leaving them to fight for whatever they can scrounge from the sopping earth outside.

And I have sown some runner beans too using the same principle, setting pots on damp earth in one corner and leaving them to it.

Keep an eye on Dahlia tubers

I have been checking the Dahlia tubers that are stored in there too, opening the crates and leaving them on the bench as much as possible to ensure no dampness gets in. I lost over 50 per cent of my stock last year to damp.

This week in the garden
Dahlia tubers drying out in storage

In the other greenhouse seeds are sprouting everywhere. Many are perennials that I will use to fill borders while other plants bulk up to split in the spring. These were sown on January 1st and are being pricked out and potted on already. Some are tough annuals like Calendula and French Marigold; I want to use as companion planting in the vegetable beds.

Another highlight this week in the garden were the chillies. Some regular, some small and brightly coloured and some for flavour. The Rotocos hit 350,000 on the Scoville scale; you don’t want to be taking a bite out of them. These are now pricked out into their first pots. I will keep the heat on them for a while to get them ready to plant out in May, some in pots and some just outside the greenhouse.

Cuttings taken in early January are also fully rooted and now being potted on, providing more plants for the first Abbotsbrook plant swap late in April or early May.

Another couple of frosty nights are forecast, so I have covered up a few things and tucked others into a cold frame.

This week in the garden Week 5

This week in the garden Week 5

This week in the garden Week 5
A wet and blowy weekend let to a brighter week, but the frost of Wednesday night will undoubtedly have done some damage.

This week in the garden I have cut back the Miscanthus in the west facing front garden, mainly because the leaves were being blown everywhere and the seed heads had been stripped. New green shoots were showing on this, but not yet on the Calamagrostis.

As a matter of choice I prefer to cut back without removing the new shoots, but it should not matter. Some major grass displays are cut back unceremoniously with a hedge trimmer regardless of what stage growth is. It is grass after all, and it grows like.. well, grass.

This week in the garden
Miscanthus trimmed back ready for new growth

I have also moved some plants that are in a north aspect, removing about fifteen Phormium Tenax fans, leaving “just” the other fifteen in place. After trimming back the fans so they can be planted without fear of falling or being blown over, I have donated them to neighbours. These architectural plants make great anchors to plant around as the are hardy and evergreen.

This area gets little sun below the fence line outside of Late May to August, and the soil remains cold and damp most of the time. I have some Cornus varieties close by, their winter coloured stems hopefully lifting the gloom. Behind them and under the tree I have planted about fifteeen Vinca Major Variegata, the large and robust variegated Periwinkle. It grows in light deprived areas, and the largely off-white leaf lifts the background.

This week in the garden
Vinca lifts the low light areas

I used this plant in another north facing area last year, but this time under a Holly tree, again with the idea that it might lift light levels and encourage a second look at the other plants in that area.

The frost will set back those early starters again, but also temper the progress of the daffs that had threatened to be over by the end of February.

In the greenhouse broad beans are now showing well, and to my surprise so are the peas. Peas just would not grow for the last two years, and this really was last chance saloon for them.

Purely as a bye-the-way test I put some seeds in to the empty  greenhouse borders. These beds are quite dry – I have added no water at all after an initial dampening – and it has worked.

I now want to sow some sweet peas to get them moving and ready to plant out in May.

Happy days!


Cold weather sets the garden back

Cold weather sets the garden back

Cold weather sets the  garden back.
The first really cold nights and days have had their way with the garden, so I have been out to check for damage.

I would expect the cold weather to set the garden back somewhat, but all appears to be in good order. Bulbs are still pushing through, and early perennials still have their first growth showing. Those that had made premature advances look to have been set back, including the Verbena Bonariensis that I have already taken cuttings from this year.

I have already started sowing seeds of some vegetables, exotics and hardy perennials. These include Rotoco Chillies, broad beans and peas, and Delphiniums, Verbena Bonariensis and Echinacea.

Cold weather sets the garden back.
Verbena Bonariensis

As these are in heated propagators they don’t seem to have been affected.

I have also checked my summer tubers stored in crates in the greenhouse. Dahlias, Cannas, Callas and some Lillies are all wrapped in paper and then put in closed boxes. Damp can cause problems, and cold damp can easily wipe out your stock/. So far though, they are all OK. In fact the Cannas were sending up new shoots like it was April.

Grasses are starting to shoot, and if that continues too fast I may have to cut back last years growth earlier than I’d like; normally a late February job.

All in all, no damage done so far, my worries over the early start afforded by mild weather unfounded.


Frost update January 28th

Some plants have started to show signs of the increasing cold, notably the various Crocosmias. The C. George Davison had been showing strong growth, but that is all burned back. The C. Masonorium has also succumbed, even though it’s a very tough plant. Only those under some shelter have escaped.

The V. Bonariensis has seen the new shoots stopped and they are now browning off. And the electric fresh green of the Nerines has been tempered and browned.

Positively, the bulbs have been set back a little, though not enough to stop the February Gold coming into flower at least 3 weeks before I’d wanted them.