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When and why to prune

 When and why to prune

Seasonal pruning, maintenance pruning,  hedge trimming, fruit tree pruning, rose pruning, why to prune, when to prune, right time to prune, pruning and climate change,  confused seasons pruning, gardener Bourne End, Marlow, Taplow, Wooburn Green gardener

When and why to prune is a vast subject, and so this article aims to describe the basic principles. There are several reasons to prune, which have differing degrees of importance to the homeowner and gardener alike.

The main reasons for pruning

Pruning is carried out for these reasons.

  • Maintaining the health of the plant
  • Manage the size of the plant
  • To get the best from a plant, for its beauty, or for its yield
  • Necessary horticultural pruning, or aesthetic pruning
  • Safety pruning, removing material that can endanger people

The very worst thing that can be done is not to prune. Many clients refer to letting the plant grow bigger for privacy, but that often produces unruly open plants that offer very little privacy.

Regular management removes dead, damaged and diseased wood, maintains shape and character, airflow and overall size. And if your plant exists primarily to provide something to your garden, i.e., scent, colour or crop, those values can be enhanced.

Sometimes the horticultural requirement is more important, and sometimes the aesthetics and practicality control what needs to be done. Ultimately, the homeowner – and bill payer – decides whether the size and shape is more important than the health of a plant.

When is the right time to prune

Late winter and early spring are often the best times to prune. There are obviously some exceptions, including plants that can be damaged by cold weather, or that flower early in the year.  Winter is the best option as many plants are dormant. The sap is not rising, and plants will not bleed from the wounds. This allows time for wounds to heal before sap starts rising again as plants come into bud.

Winter pruning without leaves makes structural pruning much easier, leaving maintenance pruning as a lighter task when plants are in full leaf.

Climate change has caused some confusion in the seasons, in that what used to be a fairly know timeframe could now have a much larger – or narrower – window. So “late winter” and “early spring” may not be the same from one year to the next. According to the Met Office,  winter doesn’t start until December 21st, making late winter February 21st through March 21st. Casting our minds back over the last few years, other than late frosts, March has been warm. This uncertainty, or vagueness leads us to conclude that it may be better to prune when we know it is coldest, and plants are most dormant, into January and before the end of February – a much shorter window.

Some plants, such as grape and walnut, are particularly vulnerable to bleeding if pruned in mid- to late winter or early spring, as the rising sap spills out from the pruning cut.

Pruning exceptions

Being aware of these subtleties is what makes a gardener. Knowing to prune before the buds start swelling, but not so early in winter that the plant could suffer winter injury.

There are a large number of plants that flower early in the year, which if pruned early would deprive them of their primary purpose. But that may be a worthwhile sacrifice for a year if the the plant needs urgent or radical attention.

A couple of rules of thumb for pruning. If the plant flowers after midsummer, prune in winter. If it flowers before midsummer, prune after flowering. And as Christopher Lloyd said, it’s OK to do it when you think of it, have time to do it and have the tools to hand, than not do it at all.

Pruning is an art form
The results of not pruning or over-pruning

Objectives of pruning?

  • Cut out all dead, damaged and diseased wood.
  • Thin out crowded and dense limbs.
  • Trim watersprouts from limbs on trees.
  • Cut out all crossing or rubbing branches.
  • Remove weak wood and thin growth.
  • Cut back at least 6″ to healthy wood on any dead wood.
  • Remove suckers.

The plant and its condition dictates the pruning requirements. Most deciduous shrubs will benefit from thinning or heading, or both. Removing old growth at the base of the shrub, and new weak or thin stems will give room for air circulation and light. If a plant requires significant reduction, do it in phases allowing growth to resume between. That way we don’t shock a plant, or reduced it to a pile of sticks. It then has chance to recover and regrow from low down. This is  way a plant to scale back safely over a period of one to three years.

Leaving Pruning Altogether

Not pruning is probably the most common pruning mistake. It is not intuitive to cut something that you want to become bigger.

Thinning shrubs allows light and air to better penetrate the shrub. Removing old wood helps keep a shrub young and vibrant. Pruning can improve the health, vigour, and lifespan of your plants.

Putting the garden to bed-or not

Putting the garden to bed – or not   Winter garden, preparation for winter, garden ready for winter, put garden to bed,  gardener Bourne End, Marlow, Taplow, Wooburn Green gardener

Most garden owners are fairly individual about what they want and expect from their gardens. But the one things they seem to come together about is the tradition of “putting the garden to bed”. It’s a tradition that harks back to the days when winters were actually cold. And they may still be in some parts of the country, but where we garden in South Buckinghamshire a proper frost is now a rare thing.

All gardens are not the same

There are pros and cons to the idea. Certainly there are some plants that are a mess and offer little winter structure. There are others that do maintain some order and structure; we used to leave them so they’d look nice when frosted – see earlier point. And there are those that do offer some benefit to wildlife, seed heads or berries for food, or collapsed cover that provides shelter. So the argument for putting the garden to bed is not straightforward.

So while I don’t think that the herbaceous border should be left in its entirety, more can be left than tradition dictates. What this does in effect is spread the task of preparing beds for the spring flush of growth over a longer period.  It also enables better and easier identification when they start growing again.

Vulnerable plants

Those plants most likely to be affected are the annuals, and tender perennials. When it does get cold – last year it was into December – they turn black and a frost of any depth will turn them to mush. Also included should be Cannas, Callas, Dahlias  and Tithonia. But I no linger worry about lifting and storing these away in the shed or garage. Five years ago I was still lifting, but now the tubers thrive in the developed ground, and get a later but stronger start when the ground warms.  Other potential contenders are gladiolus. But where they are left in situ it is worth adding a mulch layer to protect and nutrify.

Putting the garden to bed
Dahlias should be cut back when blackened by frost, and either lifted or left depending on where you are in the UK

Perennials that can be cut back include hemerocallis, crocosmia,, phlox, lysimachia. Amongst those I tend to leave are helianthus, rudbeckia and echinacea.

Points to keep in mind in putting the garden to bed

There is no hard and fast rule I apply in partially putting the garden to bed. I just remove what is contributing little, keep what can make a difference to wildlife, and any relatively strong structure. Mulch where protection is required, but eave the majority of the mulching for when the final clear down is done in January or February, depending on how hard the winter actually was.

Knowing roughly when the last frost is going to be would be useful, but some clever persons has though t of it. You can use this tool to find your location and discover the average date of a last frost. Fantastic!

More important but not on most gardeners list is to add mulch to the borders.  This is more easily done into the late winter or early spring, when you can see where returning perennials are.  And you’ll also any seedlings from last year annuals that can be relocated, or just left to be natural.

  • Clear blackened tender plants, mark location and mulch
  • Cut back anything untidy that does not offer shelter or food
  • Leave plants with seeds or berries that contribute to wildlife
  • Leave anything that maintains structure
  • When it is finally cleared, mulching  the borders will provide a protecting nutrient layer. This will be worked into the soil to improve it throughout the year.

Lawn mowing best practice

Lawn mowing best practice mowing lawn short, correct lawn mowing height, how long to mow grass, how often to mow grass, lawn mowing frequency, best lawn cutting practice, how often to cut grass, gardener Bourne End, Marlow, Taplow, Wooburn Green gardener

Over the years we have learned many do’s and don’t’s relating to lawn mowing best practise.  This gives us a good understanding of how best to keep a lawn healthy, and how to keep client costs as low as possible.

In an ideal world these points should always be applied, but unfortunately life and the weather get in the way.

Most important to lawn mowing best practice is keeping the lawn alive and healthy. Here are the basic facts.

Height of cut

Most contentious if the  height of the cut. Many people want to have a lawn that is very short, like a cricket pitch or tennis court. Of course they mostly don’t have the resources to undertake it.  Cutting turf too low is the most common mistake.  The idea is is to improve the lawn’s appearance, but the result is often the opposite.

After maintaining a lawn too low  for a couple of years, there will be more weeds, more disease, and generally poorer lawn quality.

Lawn mowing best practice
Cutting too low will cause damage.

This is caused partly by removal of too much leaf tissue and subsequent physiological effects on the plant. Mowing cuts newly emerged, highly photosynthetic leaf blades. This means older, less photosynthetically active blades must carry the burden of carbohydrate synthesis for the plant. As a result, the plant weakens and root growth slows as the plant-produced carbohydrates are shunted to produce new leaves. Grass in this weakened state is slow to recover from insect damage and disease, and weeds fill in the space.

Proper mowing height is critical to lawn health because it:

  • Allows for proper food production
  • Reduces stress
  • Inhibits weed growth
  • Reduces irrigation requirements.

In addition removing more leaf material and maintaining a lower canopy, the microclimate is changed. More light reaches into the canopy, increasing turf and upper-soil temperature. Consequently, temperature of lower-cut turf is generally higher than that of higher-cut turf. High temperatures speed up metabolism and can deplete carbohydrate reserves that the lawn needs for growth. In addition, high temperature can interact with pesticides and cause phytotoxicity.

Lawn height against lawn function

Mowing height should be based on the lawn’s main function, with consideration to the lawn quality and weediness. The height of the lawn cut will also affect the time between cuts, and hence the cost.

If a lawn is generally healthy it can be cut shorter on some occasions without major stress. So the plan should be to keep it generally longer, reducing the height occasionally. If the lawn has got longer, because it couldn’t be cut due to bad weather  for example, it may be reduced by several cuts, but still left longer than the usual final height.

Mowing frequency

Mowing frequency is based on the growth rate of the grass, not on a set time schedule. Getting this perfect is easier said than done, as the every lawn grows at it own rate. But it is the lawn mowing best practice.

Mowing frequency varies based on the lawn quality and use. A golf course typically mows its golf greens on a daily basis, while you only may need to mow a roadside several times a year. For most moderately to intensively cultured lawns, the best advice is to remove no more than one-third of the turf height at any one mowing. If you remove more than one-third, you may create an imbalance between aerial shoots and roots, thus retarding growth. Plus, too-frequent mowing can cause less rooting, reduced rhizome growth, increased shoot density, decreased shoot growth, decreased carbohydrate reserves and increased plant succulence. But, that has to be measured against cost, and availability.

So mowing frequency changes as grass starts to grow faster in April and May, slowing or even stopping in July and August, resuming in September through November; more frequently during part of the season and a reduced schedule during other months. Weather conditions, irrigation and fertilisation also affect growth rate.

Clippings

Clippings are one of the contentious elements of lawn mowing. They do occasionally benefit the lawn, but it won’t look as neat. Collecting clippings also takes longer and therefore costs more. Taking clippings away costs even more,  so best practice is to add to a clients compost pile. We try to explain and encourage  customers about composting and its benefits.

Some of the many benefits of leaving the clippings on the lawn include the return of vital nitrogen, providing up to 25% of the fertilising requirement . Removing clipping removes about 100 to 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre every year.

Leaving clippings on the lawn reduces mowing time by up to 50%. The larger the lawn, and further to the compost pile, the more saving potential there is.

The benefits of mulching mowers

Side- or rear-discharge mowers throw clippings back onto the lawn, but a mulching mower is the best option. These specially designed units cut clippings into smaller and smaller pieces so they will easily fall back to the soil, rather than sitting on top of the newly mown lawn.  These sophisticated machines create adequate suction to stand the grass, cut it, hold it long enough to chop it into tiny pieces and then evenly blow it into the turf without clumping. The subtle design of the individual cutting chambers and the blades inside the deck housing play a critical role in this process.

So when cutting your lawn we consider these factors.

  • Type of grass
  • Height of cut
  • Mowing frequency
  • Area use
  • Total area to be mowed
  • Obstacles present
  • Safety of operator and bystanders
  • Skill required for operation and maintenance
  • Skill level of operators and maintenance personnel
  • Economics
  • Equipment versatility.

We have chosen equipment to provide the best performance and cost for clients, and the wide range of lawn conditions we encounter. And while all clients are most important, lawn cutting tasks usually take priority because the task only gets harder if it is delayed. Cold, frost and wet weather delay cutting, but wet and warm weather is difficult as you can almost watch the grass growing.

Mowing safety

Our lawn mowing best practice allows consideration to client and operator safety when using lawn mowing equipment.  We are aware of hazards on lawns, proximity of people and property.

Must-have plants for any garden

My must-have plants for any garden
Gardener Bourne End, garden care Taplow, lawn care Wooburn Green, Hedge triming Cookham, Bourne End Gardener.

I’m often asked about favourite or a must-have plant, but I don’t think there is a singular answer. Many merge together creating the effects I like, and succeed each other in an orchestral fanfare lasting months on end.

But these listed below can form a core that would enable a long featured display from February to December.

Specific varieties are mostly not detailed, that would be part of the colour scheme or them of an individual garden. They could all be a must-have plant.

There are some shrubs for structure, grasses and perennials that will start early in the year, others that will last until Christmas.

And now is the time to consider any new plants for your borders. March and April are best months for planting, and if it gets as hot as last year, May will be too late. Unless you have irrigation installed or area slave to the hosepipe.

My Must-have plants – grasses and shrubs

Cornus, coloured stem dogwoods. Or coloured Willows. These provide basic flowers on fresh leaves, but of managed well offer coloured stems from December to March. They must be maintained annually, else they can grow beyond reach and the task becomes a chore. These are absolute must-have plants.

Phalaris. A vigorous variegated grass that can be divided annually to fill spaces.

Calamagrostis. Super tall grass that forms large clumps, lasts through winter as a frosted statue.

must-have plants
Two striking grass forms together

Miscanthus. Generally softer than above.

Stipa Gigantea. A most imposing grass with open oat flowers.

Black currant. Minimal fuss plant with great rewards. Grows in shade, but better, sweeter fruit is produced in a little more sun.

Essential perennials

Rudbeckia / Echinacea. The basic yellow or purple flowers are tough and will self-seed. They can be temperamental in wet ground. The newer alternative colours are more tender.

must-have plants
Echinacea purpurea, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’

Lupin. A packet of Russel hybrid seeds will see your garden full of flowers for years.

Crocosmia. The fresh dense growth provides a great contrast to most other forms. A few nice flower colours too.

Iris Germanica. Buy from a specialist as bare roots, all the colours you could imagine, various sizes and variegated forms too. The flowers can be shirt lived, but are still must-have plants.

Must-have plants
Bearded Iris provide some of the most intricate flowers in the garden. Short lived in warm periods, but so worthwhile.

Echinops. Spikey blue/purple globes on serrated leaves, can be vigorous.

must-have plants
The spiky foliage and flowers contrast with soft foliage and rounded Achillea

Eryngium. Sea holly, spiky leaves and flowers, great contrast.

Achillea. I love the tall yellow flowered version that look like cauliflower. Other colours are available, but can be more tender.

Must-have plants
Achillea cloth of gold.Tall, log-lasting, contrasting flower and foliage form. A simple must-have plant.

Hemerocallis. Day lillies, a mainstay for any garden. The flowers offer morning and evening therapy, deadheading while checking the rest of the beds. The more you deadhead, the more flowers are produced. So many colours, spreads easily, grows in ditches on freeways in California so is very tough.

must-have plants
An example of some day lily colours.

Verbena Bonariensis. Never be without this plant. I use it with Stipa to form screens through which the garden can be viewed.

Must-have plants
Stipa gigantea and Verbena bonariensis combine beaufifully.

Penstemon. Or this one. It is generally tough when established, many colours that can flower into December. Can be susceptible to drought or waterlogging.

Ground cover must-haves

Ajuga. This is wonderful, all but indestructible ground cover, bronze leaf with blue flowers. Leaf shades, size and flower colour vary slightly.

Heuchera. A wonderful variety of leaf/flower colour combinations mostly for shade or partial sun.

Geranium. The hardy ground cover plant, not tender pelargoniums. They vary by leaf shape and size, and colour, and by flower colour.

Bergenia. A very useful tough ground cover that tolerates shade well. Varying leaf sizes and flower colours.

Spring makes it all worthwhile

Spring makes it all worthwhile
Spring is coming, plants emerging in spring, first flush of spring

The dark winter days when daylight time was limited are over. The days when the list of jobs to do in rain or frost was never ending. Digging compost heaps, spreading it as mulch, cutting back gently decaying growth at various stages so as to maintain the elements of interest. On each occasion cursing as awkward winter boots and coats were donned. Spring makes it all worthwhile.

Spring makes it all worthwhile
Contrast of shade and texture provide intrigue. The dogwoods make their last stand before cutting back to the stool.

And there is not even much yet in the way of flowers, no extravagance, just the simpler and more subtle presentations of daffodils, snowdrops, primula, crocus, cyclamen and hellebores.

Spring makes it all worthwhile
Hellebores and cyclamen fanfare euphorbia and dogwoods in this shady area

The first flushes of exuberance are just about to start with kaufmannia tulips about to open.

But the real joy is in the myriad shades of green that are contrasting with the soil and with their emerging adjacent neighbours. Add to that the variety of forms and shapes and patterns. Spring makes it all worthwhile.

The simple peach red flowers of the quince, the deep bronze shoots of roses. And the self-sown plants just revealing their implausible choice of location; you can’t move them and undo what might be the most brilliant positioning you never thought of.

Spring makes it all worthwhile
The varying shades of quince flowers in shade or light. Flowers now, and then bronze etched leaves, and already looking forward to quince jelly for xmas.

Fronds of ferns just forming, and the relief that some of these delicate specimens have survived another year. That applies to pretty much every perennial showing itself, you welcome them like old friends, warn them of the monsters lurking nearby waiting to consume their fresh growth, and of the imminent cold snap trying to catch the unwary.

 

Gardening in winter

Gardening in winter
jobs to do in winter, winter tasks in the garden, winter gardening jobs

When I started From the ground up in early 2016 many detractors suggested that I’d have nothing to do across the winter. They could not have been more wrong. Gardening in winter is not only plentiful, but essential.

Many jobs can be done in winter, allowing more time for essentials in the spring.

Two key winters gardening jobs are pruning back trees, hedges and shrubs, and planting bulbs.

Bulb tradition

We traditionally think of planting bulbs in September, maybe October. God forbid you forget, you can get away with November. But the cold months are different now to the traditional view; winter does not really kick in until December. And even then, the ground is often warm still, and perfectly OK for planting bulbs.

This coincides with bulbs suppliers reducing their prices,   meaning that you can get twice as many bulbs for your money.

There is still that concern that you might not get exactly what you want, so if there is a “must have” selection, order then early and pay the price. Places where any “late red tulip”, or a generic small stemmed daff will do can often be filled cheaply. Just wait for prices to come down. Tulips are able to be planted out later than Daffodills, which can always started in pots under cover. These are ready to be planted out in February – or sink the pot – where there is a gap.

if you are planting 10 tulips or crocus then this will matter little. If you are creating a garden for impact, or developing themes year on year then saving time and money really makes a difference.

For a few years I have coveted Allium Globemaster, with 20cm globes on robust 1m stems. But at £3 to £5 each form many suppliers I could not justify the cost of creating an impact. In the sale this year 10 bulbs cost just £11, a reasonable cost for adding this element into my plan.

Gardening in winter
Allium Globemaster make a big impact

But the real gardening in winter is in tree, shrub and hedge care.

Gardening guides suggest that many shrubs require pruning in early spring. Again this is subjective, depending on where you are in the country. And how you define spring.

But lots of trees need attention while the sap is not rising, including Apples. And many shrubs are preferably pruned while dormant. Rejuvenation pruning, where hard pruning back is required after a period of overgrowth or neglect, is best done between November and March. That fits with the majority of definitions of “before spring”.

Examples include Berberis, coloured stem Dogwood, Spiraea, Deutzia
Fuchsia, Corylus, Leycesteria, Philadelphus, Cotinus and Salix.

The only plants that cannot be pruned hard are conifers.  These are mostly unable to regrow from old wood.

Deciduous hedges should also be pared back now. This is the ideal time to cut back those hedges that have become ever wider.  Prune back to a stouter more rigid frame, so the bush can present a softer more manageable face. This will need trimming as new growth gets to two – three buds.  And it should be cut to form an upward slant from a slightly wider base. This slanting or “batter” enables light to reach the bottom, allowing more even growth.

Doing this gardening in winter should leave more time for the spring essentials, like clearing ornamental grasses, and dead heading day lillies; things that cannot be done at any other time.

Renovation care

Restorative or maintenance pruning in winter is done at the expense of future flowering of the shrub, so you could lose some of this year’s flowering.  With large shrubs or hedges do it gradually, allowing the chance for recovery. Shrubs should be reduced in stages over two years, and hedges one side at a time, and the height at another time to the sides.

A good feed and mulch will help the plants recover.

Attending to the hedge sides separately means that it still maintains some integrity. When the side cut back in winter has recovered fully, the other side can then be reduced. This may be the following autumn. Otherwise wait until the gaps have filled in.

I have an overgrown elaeagnus that has a few leaves on the very outside of a large empty space. I don’t like it as a hedging plant; it not dense enough. So I am going to cut the outside face back hard.

Gardening in Winter
Overgrown Elaeagnus  before cutting back

Hopefully it will become dense enough to work as a hedge for both privacy and security. If not I will replace it completely.

 

Gardening in Winter
And after 30cm has been removed

Revitalise a flower bed

Revitalise a flower bed for next year

revitalise a flower bed, Planning new flower beds, reworking a flower bed, redesign flower bed, design a flower bed, revive a mature bed
Not so much planning a flower bed, but I have had a plan to rework and revitalise a flower bed for 9 months now. But I could not recall what was growing in there, and was loath to just dig it out and discard anything. So I waited to see what all seasons provided and find out for sure what grows there.

In that time I have grown some Iris and Sedum that I knew would thrive there, and about 40 Buxus plants to use as a backdrop and border. So the time has been useful and saved me about £60 in new plants.

I also used the project as a cost exercise, timing how long each aspect took.

I had to:-

  • remove existing planting
  • clear any weeds and roots
  • rejuvenate the soil with compost
  • dig it over
  • and plant the new plants

Clearing out existing plants took two hours, involving the lifting of huge blocks of Crocosmia, and an invasive ground cover Campanula. The area is overshadowed by a large Pyracantha, which has both sheltered the ground from rain and deposited a deep mulch of dead leaves, making sure no water penetrated.

Revitalise a flower bed
Overgrown border in need of re thinking

Revitalise a flower bed
A small toad emerges during the disturbance. I do everything I can to encourage these slug and snail eaters.

Dig deep

Then digging it over, deep enough to crack the “pan” that has formed about 8 inches down, and adding 200 litres of compost, 3 wheelbarrows full from the compost heap, took another hour. Digging it in so it was well distributed consumed another hour.

It was then ready for new plants. The Buxus where laid out in two tiers, one that will eventually grow higher than the other. And the other plants dependent on where the sun would strike most in the afternoon.

Planting box in straight lines and evenly spaced is essential. If you have concerms about box blight, a reasonable alternative to Buxus for such framework is euonymus microphyllus, I saw it used in some national trust gardens recently.

My plan calls for a small space in front of them for the Iris and Sedum, Digitalis and Lysimachia firecracker. There was also some Convallaria that was salvaged to add back in.

Finally I added about 10 Echinacea plants that I have grown from seed. Six hours in, revitalising a flower bed is not as easy as it might seem.

Plan now to revitalise a flower bed

Draw up plans to show what is growing, what you want to keep and what will be discarded. Consider when is best for you to do it. Allow for weather and how much compost you can generate from your heap. And also plan to have plants ready to fill the empty space.

If you need a flower bed replanted or revitalised, call us for a quote. Or email us here.

hedge trimming cutting Bourne end

 

Gardener Bourne End, cutting high hedges Bourne End Marlow Flackwell Heath

Cutting high hedges

Cutting high hedges

Cutting high hedges, trimming high hedges, hedge trimming Bourne End, hedge cutting  Bourne End, Marlow, Flackwell heath
A few years ago I had quotes to have my Leylandii hedge cut. It was not overgrown, but rather tall, and long, and the warm weather really gets it growing.

The prices I got then for my 40 meter long, 3.5 metre high hedge were £80 and £95. For each side!

It sounded a little steep so I tested it with a time and motion study.

When I have cut the hedge myself in the past it has taken over 3 hours to cut each side. This was mainly because of the requirement to constantly climb on to an access platform and then down again to move it along. And the fact that I used a comparatively short cutting blade. 70cms would normally be considered long, but when faced with 140 square metres it’s small.

Cutting high hedges
120 square metres of hedge took me a about 3 hours to cut and more time to clear up.

Cutting the top involves a trapeze act with two ladders. So cutting from the ground instead is infinitely safer, as well as faster.

But that is all in the past. Now From the ground up has long reach and extendable hedge cutters and high access equipment.  These commercial cutters with 30mm teeth made light work of the hedge in an hour and a half total. On my current garden rates that would cost less than £60 per side.

Cutting tougher hedges

But Leylandii is not a measure of robustness, so I took on the neighbours Laurel as well. The machines did not flinch. Memories of struggling to place an access platform between shrubs came back, reminding me of hours wasted and scratches all over me.

Cutting high hedges
Conifer hedges should not be cut after the end of August.

So if you’re fed up of cutting high hedges, and the hedge is up to 14 feet tall, we can cut it well and for a good price.

A hedge that is overgrown and requires larger branches cutting out will inevitably take a little longer. This would be renovation more than a cut or trim.

safe trestle
Good equipment overcomes difficult access for high hedges

Hedge trimmings can be taken away, depending on volume and nature. Compostable materials are shredded and taken to our local compost plot,  or put in the green recycling bin. Some residue can be burned, or worst case it will be taken to local authority tip. This is a last resort given the expense.

August and September is the time to cut hedges. Call us for an estimate to cut your hedges now. Or email us here.

 

 

 

Gardener Bourne End, cutting high hedges Bourne End Marlow Flackwell Heath, hedge cutting Cookham, Wooburn Green, Taplow, hedge renovation, hedge trimming, hedge reduction

Collecting leaves

Collecting leaves in autumn

Collecting leaves in autumn, collecting leaves Bourne End, Marlow, Flackwell Heath, leaf collecting Bourne End, remove leaves Bourne End, collect leaves Bourne End
Around this time of year leaves start to fall. First those despatched by trees and shrubs desperate for water, and in just a few short weeks by the majority of the nations trees.

For many gardeners this presents a dilemma. To start collecting leaves “as they fall”, or to wait until they are all down and do it in one go.

Consider then what a carpet of leaves actually does to your lawn. Leaves bind together when wet, especially the larger varieties, making an impenetrable mat that blocks light and air from the grass. That is the two primary sources of life removed. This may cause patches, weakened areas or even kill it off.

Collecting leaves
Another crop of leaves to provide a vital fertility boost to lawns and beds

But grass is tough stuff, it will be back in the spring, right? Maybe, but not for sure. It can take months for grass areas to heal themselves, leaving lawns unsightly and even unusable.

And it’s easy to do something about it.

Fallen leaves are a usable commodity in your garden. Collecting leaves to be part of the regular compost pile, or kept in separate leave bins to create leafmould, will contribute a rich structure and mulching substance for your flower beds over the winter.

Or if you are fortunate enough to have a mulching mower, it will chop it all up and return it to the grass, thereby giving a huge boost to the fertility of the lawn. Otherwise your mower will be able to shred and collect most of the leaves for you to deposit in compost or leafmould bins.

Collecting with a mower or vacuum is easier than raking them up. Leaves that are whole, i.e., not chopped will take a lot longer to break down than the shredded ones.

Collecting leaves action plan

As leaves start to fall collect them regularly, twice a week if possible.

Start a leafmould bin or add them to the compost

As frosts start add them to the flower beds and around trees for the worms to incorporate into the soil.

So far we have not mentioned the other advantages of removing leaves. They are untidy, they blow into the house when its windy, they stick to the dog and cat, they are very slippery on hard surfaces. Trodden in leaves can make a real mess of your carpets too.

So put them to use! Collect them and return their energy to your garden.

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Holiday garden care

Holiday garden care

Holiday garden care
You can be more relaxed about leaving a well established garden while you go on holiday than one recently established.  Or one that has a lot of pots or baskets.

So what can you do to keep your garden living while you go away?

A well-established garden- over three years old – should be able to hold its own. Even in a mid- to high twenties summer week. It may even deal with two weeks. If plants have not established for at least two years they will likely feel the strain of an extended period sans water.

In theory the easy solution is to get someone in- a relative or neighbour – to take care of it for you. But what if you are a very particular gardener, and your friends don’t share the same passion – and ultimately care – that you do?

Then you need your local garden service to come it for you. As long as they are not just grass or hedge cutters and have some horticultural experience, they will know how to provide holiday garden care.

They water yours, you water theirs

An agreement between near neighbours could work well. I am very lucky, in that I have friends that are interested and knowledgeable gardeners. I can trust them.

But I still want to make it relatively simple for them too. You can’t expect someone to spend the same time that you would walking around the plot with a watering can.

I group my vulnerable pots and baskets together, so that there are fewer places to go with hose or can. Grouping pots closer together also maintains a more humid atmosphere for longer.

It’s also much easier to give the pots the required soaking when they are closer together. Remember that it’s better to give one or two good soakings a week than a little every day. 

I hang baskets in towers of two or three, so the water from the top one cascades down to the next ones, saving time and water.

But perhaps with the exception of certain key beds or plantings, it’s not reasonable to have someone chasing around all of your garden unless you’re prepared to pay for holiday garden care. But they do need to have an idea of how much water to use.

From the ground up can take care of your garden while you away. The service is available in the Bourne End – Marlow – Wooburn Green areas.

The upside of a dry week

A dry week or two will show you where plants are vulnerable. Therefore you’ll know where to direct your attention as far as improving the water retention in the soil. You can do this by mulching, or even re-digging the bed with more compost.

Some plants that are suffering in the heat may just be slow to stablish. I have two Astrantias that have taken ages to get going in a west facing bed.

Holiday garden care
Even plants that thrive in well drained or dry conditions like Sedum can suffer.

The two beds that I had dug last October – in the hope of winter frosts breaking down the clay – have many distressed plants.

Tender perennials like Dahlias seem to be OK. And the Lillies and Cannas. But Penstemons planted in spring have suffered, along with Achillea and Buxus.

But the bed planted with a Mediterranean or drought resistant theme has managed well in its first year.

A large top dressing of compost will be applied to these beds this weekend. I will slowly be returning pots and baskets to their places.

Dry weather planning

Consider getting a contingency to the hosepipe too. An extended dry period may result in a hosepipe ban.

Fixed installed irrigation is exempt. Drip and micro irrigation systems, and leaky pipes laid throughout the beds can still be used. You can also have these automated, so they will take care of the garden when you are away.

But back it up with  rainwater collection systems such as water butts. I say “butts”, as one will not last long if there is no rain for a few weeks.

Storing more water will make keeping your garden alive more cost effective.

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