Tuesday, 29 March 2016

GARDEN PLANTS MAKE AN EARLY START



GARDEN PLANTS MAKE AN EARLY START

Plant growth and emergence are determined by many different factors, but temperature and day length play very important roles. At this time of year as the days get longer a lot of plants are ready to grow and flower, but if the temperature is just not warm enough they will get held back. We are in spring so the crocus should be in full bloom with daffodils starting to show a lot of colour. Like humans the plants need a decent rest, which they normally get during the dormant season from November till March, but winter never really got cold and spring has not really took off, so the garden is not quite sure where it should go. The snowdrops started to flower in December and kept going till March as temperatures have remained fairly constant. Crocus have been very slow to flower then opening up sporadically over several weeks. Daffodils are slow to emerge, but should pick up once we get a few warm spring days. However some of my tulips are in flower, and my scented viburnum carlcephalum has started to flower a good month ahead of normal. If this is climate change it certainly makes the garden very interesting and unpredictable as it seems the normal season of growth and flowering no longer applies.
Crocus Yellow Mammoth
Spring bedding plants in tubs are very variable. Polyanthus and primroses are full of flower but winter pansies seem to be waiting on better days. Hyacinths and tulips are emerging but are in no hurry to grow.
The early allotment vegetable crops grown from seed are all looking strong. Broad beans, onions, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts have all germinated and will soon need pricking off, other than those grown in cellular trays. Beetroot and spring onions have also been sown in cellular trays and are now just germinating. These salads will be planted out under a low polythene tunnel to give an early crop of fresh greens.
Seed potatoes have been placed in a cool room with good light so chitting can progress as the first earlies will get planted at the beginning of April if we get some decent weather.
Dogwood and snowdrops
Tomato seed sown a few weeks ago have now all germinated and been pricked out into individual pots. I am growing Alicante as my maincrop with Sweet Million as my best cherry type and a beef stake tom known as Costuluto Fiorentino. I am also trying out the yellow tomato Sungold as it got great reviews from growers last year, though you don’t get many plants from the packet. Ten seeds gave me eight plants. I have good wide south facing windowsills so my tomatoes can stop there for a few weeks as my greenhouse is bursting at the seams. In a couple of weeks we should get warmer weather and more plants can go outside for hardening off to make room in my borders for the tomatoes. I will again prepare the borders by excavating some soil and adding compost for the third year. Last year my composted border produced very strong tomatoes giving me eight trusses with a great crop and yet the summer was dreadful. Anna had to freeze the surplus crop, so now we regularly enjoy healthy home made tomato soup.
Polyanthus in a tub
Grape vines under glass are now beginning to show bud swelling letting me know the growing season is now well under way.
I have just taken delivery of two new strawberry varieties to try out. Sweet Colossus is said to have large and very sweet fruit and Albion will be my new everbearer taking fruit picking from mid summer into the autumn.

Wee jobs to do this week
The winter border has had a great year with Cornus sibirica and Mid Winter Fire, Kerria japonica, Salix britzensis and Japanese Maple Sangokaku all dazzling from leaf fall in autumn till the end of this month, but now growth is starting so now is the time to cut back the cornus and willow. These get cut back severely to ground level and always manage to grow again quite strongly. I use the ten foot tall willow cuttings as support for my rows of peas on the allotment. This keeps the coloured stem border well managed and allows the show of crocus more light. These are then followed by daffodils and tulips then tall scented oriental lilies in mid summer.

End


Monday, 21 March 2016

THE LEAN MONTHS



THE LEAN MONTHS

We grow fruit and vegetables to provide healthy food throughout the year. Mid summer to autumn is the harvest period, then we store and freeze crops to take us into winter and the following spring. It is the March to early May that is the difficult lean months when our own produce can be scarce. The challenge is to be self sufficient over twelve months, but that takes some planning.
We bring the cropping seasons forward by growing salads, strawberries and other crops under tunnels or in cold frames or greenhouses. Early potatoes is another challenge so we use a very early variety like Casa Blanca or International Kidney planting chitted seed potatoes on the first warm day in spring. The first shaws can be lifted as soon as the plant has flowered and although the crop may be light, the salad potatoes will be delicious. Early strawberries grown under tunnels can also be ready for picking by the end of May.
The last two pumpkins


Rhubarb is another delicacy that can be brought forward by forcing. Lift mature crowns in winter and replant under the greenhouse staging, but enclose them with black polythene to exclude light. This will produce tender deep pink stalks well ahead of the outdoor crops. However the mild winter has helped existing rhubarb crowns to put in an early start so it won’t be long before we have fresh stalks, though there is still a lot in our freezer from last year needing to be used up.
The poor summer of 2015 followed by the wet winter has thrown up some real anomalies. Beetroot grew but did not swell up so the meagre crops did not last much beyond Christmas. Spring cabbage was so badly affected by clubroot that none of them survived, and winter cabbage was very poor to grow and is only now beginning to heart up. Brussels sprouts on the other hand have never been better, and it looks like they will be cropping well into April.
The last Fiesta apple
Leeks suffered from water logging but are alive and edible, once all the rotten leaves have been removed. Swedes all failed, but this was down to poor seed as the germination was a total failure.
Parsnips were a success and still enough in the ground to last into early April.
Crops stored in cold dry dark conditions in my garage have done remarkably well. Sarpo Mira potatoes look like lasting for another couple of months, and Hytech onions just the same. Carrots are still in the ground as the mild winter has been in their favour and should last till the end of March. Apples have not lasted as in previous years as the poor summer and autumn did not help to ripen them up. Brown rot has been quite a problem. Only Fiesta has lasted into March, but there is still a few good Bramleys for cooking. However a lot of the apple crop was used to make my dessert apple wine, leaving it for two years in demijohns to mature then enjoy a wee glass every so often. Pumpkins stored very well but numbers are in short supply as they like warm growing conditions but never got any last year.
Rhubarb forcing
It is the freezer that has been the winner in giving us plenty of crops of a wide variety right through the lean months. Last year our bumper tomato crops ended up in the freezer and now Anna makes an excellent tomato soup. Broad beans were also plentiful last year and although these are used in many different dishes my favourite is still the soup. Dwarf French beans and cauliflower from the freezer give us variety in the lean months.
Blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, saskatoons and brambles have all frozen well and will give us plenty of berries before the new season ones are ready. These will be used for compote which we use daily, and also crumbles and summer puddings.

Wee jobs to do this week
Gardeners always love the challenge of growing the best, the biggest fruit and vegetable or to be the first to harvest their potato or early strawberry. It also gives great satisfaction to pick fresh salads ahead of the normal season. We can do this with a sowing now of lettuce, rocket, radish, beetroot and spring onions in cellular trays to germinate in a warm place, then after a few weeks they can be hardened off before planting out in early April in a cold frame, cold greenhouse or a polythene tunnel. The radish will be ready first and the beetroot last.

 End


Sunday, 13 March 2016

PLANTS FOR PROBLEM AREAS



PLANTS FOR PROBLEM AREAS

Helianthemum
My life in the gardening world has taken me all round the country. This has given me the experience of working with a huge variety of soils, sites, climates and problems which had to be solved with a suitable plant cover. Some sites around the coastal areas were very dry with soils containing a lot of sand; others down south were shallow and overlying gravel beds or chalk. In the midlands there is a lot of deep but fertile clay soils in the country areas but many industrial towns had no soil what so ever. It was normal practise to buy in top soil for our landscape works in the Midlands, and the north east had stiff heavy clays that could hold too much water. Some coastal areas suffered a lot of wind exposure and salt sprays which could desiccate the leaves of vulnerable plants. The south east (the fens) has a lot of flat peaty soils reclaimed by draining, and some areas around Manchester have very deep peat soils with drainage problems. In Scotland we have a lot of boulder clay soils left over from the last ice age, but when well managed they can be very productive. However our country is not flat so we have the added problems of dealing with gardens on a slope. Shade from buildings and tree cover needed solutions. Building often created wet shade while trees often created dry shade, as the roots absorb moisture from the soil which is then lost through transpiration from the leaves.
Cistus Silver Pink
Most plants are very tough and adapted to growing in their own environment. It was our job so sort out the best plants for each situation. I worked as a garden designer for large scale local authority projects, but also got involved at individual garden level. Whatever the location, soil, or problem it was our job to find plants for all these situations.
Many areas exposed to the coast can suffer gales as well as salt spray. We all see the affect of this salt damage on grass verges along the highways after winter as the road salt usually kills out vegetation a few feet from the kerb. In gardens we can plant up those plants known to tolerate wind and salt to some degree. Escallonias, broom, sea buckthorn, holly, willow, eucalyptus and tamarix, and at ground level use pinus mugo, senecio, rosemary, lavender, delosperma or euonymus and for flowers the shrub rose rosa rugosa, cistus and red hot pokers will all have a place.
Red Hot Pokers
Most of these plants can also be used on soils away from the coast but still suffering from dry conditions. Other favourites can include the hardy outdoor fuchsias, all kinds of heathers, cotoneasters which vary from ground cover to small trees, gorse, and for the exotic garden try the yucca, New Zealand flax or the palm tree, Cordyline australis.
Many gardens suffer steep banks that make maintenance a problem so we tend to plant them up with ground cover which also smothers weeds. Heathers, camellias, dwarf rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas are useful but if the garden gets too much shade you can use variegated ivy, euonymus, London Pride, dwarf pines, pernettya, mahonia and viburnum davidii. However if the steep banks get a bit of warmth and sunshine this allows another range of plants. Flag iris, Helianthemum, the dwarf rock rose, senecio, hardy fuchsias and flag iris will all enjoy a steep well drained bank in the sun.
Outdoor fuchsia
Wet soil problems vary from damp soil to ponds and each has its own range of plants adapted to the degree of wetness. Cornus, willows, aronias, ornamental elderberries, bamboos, spiraea and snowberry are all fine as long as they do not get too much waterlogging.

Wee jobs to do this week

All fruit bushes and trees can benefit from a mulch of rotted manure or compost about two inches deep. Make sure all weeds have been removed before spreading the mulch. It will conserve moisture and add nutrients as it rots down. The plant will also benefit as surface feeding roots will not be disturbed or killed by hoeing. The mulch is also useful under gooseberry bushes to assist prevention of sawfly maggot infestations.

 End


Sunday, 6 March 2016

SPRING IS ARRIVING



SPRING IS ARRIVING

At long last the rains have stopped and the soil surface is beginning to dry out. The last week of February was a real bonus with dry sunny days and just a slight frost over night to firm up the soil surface. Winter digging has now been completed, and all my entire compost heap used up, but the beginning of the new one has got a start. Kitchen waste is always available, and grass cutting has now begun. Add to this the wood shredding from the prunings of all the roses, raspberries, currants, saskatoons, gooseberries, brambles and grape vines. Our allotment site shredder is having a busy time just now, and the shreddings are perfect for the compost heap or as a mulch under some fruit bushes. They are also useful on paths to keep weeds down for the season.
Iris reticulata
The sunny days brought on the spring flowering bulbs and although the aconites and snowdrops are past their best, the crocus are now taking centre stage. A small batch of Iris reticulata planted a few years ago is now beginning to form a strong drift of colour that will thicken up each year. Anemone blanda planted about ten years ago is now appearing in many different borders, probably from seed mixed in with the old leaves and collected for the compost heap, which then gets spread all over the garden. This plant is not invasive so we just let it grow where ever it wishes and the drifts of bright blue flowers at the end of February and into March are always a welcome sight. My ground cover yellow saxifrage is now in flower as soon as it senses
Primulas ready to plant
spring is approaching.
Outdoor plant tubs and hanging baskets are always liable to plant losses especially as the winter has been so wet, but garden centres and many other outlets are just full of spring bedding flowers at very reasonable prices, so go for some of these and top up the tubs and baskets and find a few extras for gaps in borders. Primroses, polyanthus and pansies are all looking great at point of sales as most of them will have spent winter under glass or in the protection of poly tunnels.
Garden centres and numerous supermarkets are now stocking fruit trees and bushes as we head into spring. I have seen a lot of plants for sale in Dundee that are just not suitable for our climate. Scotland is colder, wetter and has less sun than the south of the UK, so some plants that are just fine in the south are just not suited to a cooler climate.  Always check out the variety before you buy.
Saxifrage
My new bramble (blackberry) Reuben gets brilliant reviews with immense sweet berries so I thought I must try out this primocane type. This means it gets cut down to the base every year and fruits at the end of the new shoots produced in the same season. Planted a year ago and cut down to a few inches it soon produced a couple of shoots. However these did not flower till November so I had little chance of seeing any berries. Last year was a rotten year so too early to judge. This year the winter has been very mild so my bramble has been growing for a few weeks, only to get the young soft shoots frosted by a couple of degrees of frost. Still too early to judge.
Seed potatoes for the allotment are now all boxed up for chitting and placed in a cool but frost free room near the window. Hopefully the young shoots will emerge but remain stocky and be ready for planting out towards the end of March or early April depending on weather at that time.
White Orchid
Rhubarb crowns are now all swelling up and looking very promising. The mild wet winter seems to have done them no harm at all.
My cold greenhouse is rapidly filling up as plants get transferred from windowsills and other seeds get sown. Begonias are still at home but will need to go out in a few weeks time.
Indoors, the white Phalaenopsis orchid is in full flower. They are great value as they last for weeks.

Wee jobs to do this week
Geraniums grown from cuttings last autumn as well as stock plants dug up and potted into large pots are now all putting on a lot of growth. Some are getting too big for windowsills. I have transferred the strongest looking ones to my cold greenhouse to harden off, but to keep them short jointed remove the tops and use these as a batch of cuttings. They root easy but need warm conditions indoors on a shady windowsill.

 END

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

BEGIN SEED SOWING



BEGIN SEED SOWING

Looks like spring is coming early this year, or maybe the garden has awoken earlier due to lack of a winter. Although it has been very wet under foot the temperatures have been mild so the garden plants have not been hanging back. Aconites, snowdrops and crocus have all been showing flowers for several weeks, and it looks like the daffodils and tulips won’t be far behind, so it is time to get the show on the road and start off with the seed sowing. I make a start at the beginning of March to sow my tomatoes, onions, peppers, broad beans and sweet peas, and my tuberous begonias will get boxed up and given some heat as they need a long season. However my plants are for general use. If you are an exhibitor you will have started a couple of months ago to get the advantage of a longer growing season. We all have adopted our own system for sowing early crops. As my greenhouse is not heated, I rely on having plenty of warm windowsill space for germination.
Sowing tomato seeds

Broad beans and sweet peas are both quite hardy but need warmth to germinate. I sow broad beans individually in cellular trays with 15 pots of 7cms size to a standard seed tray. Sweet peas can also go in these cellular trays, but a slightly bigger pot will give a better crop when you put three seeds in each pot. Once these have germinated and grown on for two to three weeks they can be put in the cold greenhouse for a few more weeks before planting out at the end of April. After several leaves have formed pinch out the main stem to encourage branching. If you wish to grow them as cordons for bigger flowers then select the strongest shoot once the new growths emerge.
Tomato seedlings ready to prick out

Onions are sown in smaller cellular trays of 40 cells per tray and germinated in a warm place. Seeds are sown individually but if two or three seeds land in a tray just leave them to grow. You can pot up these plants into the next cell size later on or just plant as soon as they are hardened off. Do not separate plants if some cells have two or three plants together. They will be going into well manured ground that is very fertile as they are heavy feeders. This year I will try Globo.
Broad Beans

Tomatoes and peppers are sown into shallow seed trays and both these need warmth at all times. Sow thinly so seeds remain stocky, then prick out into individual pots before they get too big. Mind you it is easy to sow thinly when there is only ten seeds in the packet. No chance of sowing half the packet this year and keep the rest for next year. This year I am growing my favourite Alicante plus the yellow Sungold and my best cherry, Sweet Million. They will always need heat and good light so do not be in a hurry to transfer them into a cold greenhouse unless it is lined with bubble polythene and you have a heater handy if frost threatens.
Boxing up tuberous begonias

Tuberous begonias can now get boxed up with good compost and placed in a warm place. A dark corner is fine for a few weeks as they are quite slow to grow, but once the shoots emerge bring them into the light. I start mine off spacing them quite close together then once I see where all the shoots are I transplant them into bigger boxes and give them more room. As my corms are now about twenty years old they are a fair size so this is a good time to split the corms as long as each section has a couple of strong shoots. I just use a big knife and chop them up to no harm.

Wee jobs to do this week

Strawberry plants bought from nurseries are often fresh dug in the autumn, but cold stored for planting in spring. Although they don’t look great without leaves, the crown is strong and once warmer weather arrives they soon burst into growth. There are now so many new varieties that it is always interesting to try something new. This year I will try out a new early strawberry Sweet Colossus and a new Everbearer called Albion to extend my season. My existing perpetual strawberry Flamenco, stopped producing runners and has died out during the wet sunless winter.

 END

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

GARDEN TREES



GARDEN TREES

Every garden can benefit from a few trees to give them scale, height, flowers, autumn colour and fruit. Trees encourage birds and other wildlife, screen eyesores and create impressive specimens in lawns and borders. Trees can be selected for any size of garden and may be ornamental, flowering and fruiting.
The largest gardens can enjoy a good specimen Cedar, silver weeping lime, purple beech or maple, but as garden size gets smaller we just choose the next smaller size to suit. There are numerous upright tree forms which can be very impressive but don’t take up much space such as hornbeam, oak and the upright cherry,
White stemmed birch tree
Prunus Amanagawa only needs a square metre. The weeping birch Betula pendula youngii makes a brilliant specimen, especially if you train the leader upright for a few years then let it weep. My other favourite birch is the pure white stemmed Betula jacquemontii, making a very impressive specimen in all seasons. Then in Scotland you must find space for a rowan, now available with a wide range of different coloured berries.
Another favourite but needs space is the Eucalyptus gunnii. It is evergreen, hardy and fast growing.
Maples come in all sizes and the Japanese types such as Sangokaku makes a small tree with terrific autumn colour then attractive red stems in winter after leaf fall.
For the very small gardens the Kilmarnock willow and the dwarf weeping elm tree, Ulmus camperdownii, is well worth planting as they are both very attractive and the
Cordyline australis
Camperdown elm is our local elm. For a very small garden you can still get a bit of height with the dwarf mountain pine, Pinus mugo or slightly taller Pinus strobus nanus or the tree heath, Erica arborea. If you want an evergreen, the hardy palm, Cordyline australis is quite happy as long as global warming continues, but if we get another really bad winter it can kill the top down to ground level, though usually it survives to grow on again after a years recovery.

Flowering trees
Cherries, crab apples, Magnolias, Eucryphia, Lilac and Amelanchier are all perfect for smaller gardens. Prunus Amanogawa is upright and quite narrow. Prunus Shirotae is spreading, but an absolute stunner in flower. Crab apples flower then have a crop of very bright small apples, e.g. John Downie. Some Magnolias are more large shrubs, but can attain a fair height when mature.
Eucryphia Rostrevor is slow growing but will make a tall white flowering tree in time.
 
Apple Starline Firedance
Fruiting trees
If you prefer to have a fruiting tree then the choice can include apples, pears, plums, peaches, and cherries and even the fig will make a small fruiting tree. Modern dwarfing rootstocks now allow us to have apples, peaches and cherries that will happily fit into the small garden often trained against a south facing wall. Choose varieties that have healthy foliage as there are very few fungicides available to tackle scab, mildew or brown rot. I can recommend apple Discovery, Katy, Red Devil, Fiesta and Bramley for a good cooker. If space is limited try the columnar apple Starline Firedance. Victoria is still my favourite plum, and Avalon Pride a good peach with
Upright oak
resistance to peach leaf curl disease. Beurre Hardy and Concord are my best pears, but newer varieties are appearing all the time and it is good to try something different.

Wee jobs to do this week

Grape vines under glass and outdoors get pruned in December and January, but I retain several strong shoots to use as cuttings later on, but keep them moist by heeling in the soil in the greenhouse border. I take cuttings about two buds length and place then round the sides of a pot with a few draining compost. Place them indoors on a windowsill where they will get some warmth and light, but not direct sunlight. They should be rooted by late spring and ready for potting on.

END

Friday, 19 February 2016

Art Chain Challenge.

I was nominated to participate in this event where artists would paint and complete one painting every day for five days.
I chose Cape Gooseberries for four paintings then for my fifth image I started a new project of the Lady in Red in the City (Dundee)
These paintings are all in oil and at present unframed and available from my studio in Dundee.
Study three and Four and Lady in Red have all got textured backgrounds with palette knife work.


Cape Gooseberry One
Cape Gooseberry Two
                                                 

  


                                                                      

Lady in Red
Cape Gooseberry Three
Cape Gooseberry Four

Monday, 15 February 2016

PLANTS FOR THE HOUSE



PLANTS FOR THE HOUSE

House plants are part of the interior d├ęcor. Some may be permanent features providing interest in corners, around fireplaces, most of which are no longer a source of heat, in the middle of a table or other focal point or frequently on a windowsill. There is a plant for every occasion, though most are subject to changes in fashion. Forty years ago it was the time for the rubber tree plant and the cheese plant, and cactus were common on windowsills even though they seldom flowered.
Sophie with a couple of cyclamen plants
Today we have a huge range of foliage plants as well as flowering plants. The Dragon tree is very popular just now and the variegated rubber tree is making a comeback, but it is the flowering house plants that make the biggest impact. Most of these tend to have their own season, though sales are always high for Mothers Day and just before Christmas as we want to brighten up our rooms for festive visitors. It is very hard to resist the big bright red Poinsettias as a festive decoration, though we could also choose a cyclamen, an indoor azalea, a winter cherry (Solanum) or the Christmas
Winter Cherry
cactus (Zygocactus). Some are grown to give one display then discarded, but others can be retained and grown on to flower every year. Nowadays it is quite easy to find growing details on the internet to let us know whether to water and feed, or dry off as each plant has its own needs. The Christmas cactus is usually very reliable and as the plant gets bigger each year it can sometimes excel itself by a profusion of flowers in December then another show again a few months later. However this will exhaust it and as I found out it needs a rest for a year.
Another cactus worth growing on a warm south facing windowsill is the Rebutia cactus.
Poinsettia
Keep it virtually bone dry all autumn and winter. It likes to flower in late spring to mid summer when it will need some moisture, then a wee bit more as it continues to grow. Then by the end of summer dry it off so it can rest till next year.
Cyclamen can be kept growing right through till spring to build up the strength of the corm, but then they need drying off for the summer. They will come back to life at the end of autumn after their rest.
Another very popular plant for year round interest is the dwarf orange bush with white scented citrus flowers followed by small oranges that can last for several months. However I can’t say the bonny wee oranges are sweet enough to eat when growing in our Scottish climate. They are also prone to scale insect attacks.
Fuchsia Southern Belle
The Amaryllis bulb is a very popular Christmas present, and will flower in late winter. To get it to flower every year it needs watering and feeding up till the end of the summer when you dry it off for about three months. It flowers best when pot bound, so do not be in a rush to pot it up.
Orchids of the Phalaenopsis type are just about found in every home as they are very easy to grow and last for years. Look after them well and they should flower every year. They enjoy the warm moist atmosphere of a bright shower room, away from direct sunlight, as they absorb moisture from their aerial roots that grow outwards from the pot, so don’t cut these off to tidy up the plant. I have had mine for many years giving me such a good display that I must have done a dozen orchid paintings, mainly on large box canvases.
Geranium, fuchsias and Impatiens (Busy Lizzie) are garden bedding plants used for tubs, borders and baskets, but will also be very happy in the house on a bright windowsill, but not in full sun.

Wee jobs to do this week

Check over tree stakes, wire supports and ties on ornamental trees, shrubs and fruit. We are often too busy during the growing season, and tend to put off this task to a quiet moment. This is that quiet moment to secure young plants for another year. Ties on trees can also get too tight as the tree swells up as it grows, so the ties may need adjusting. Make sure the tree stake is well away from the trunk otherwise it is likely to cause damage.

 End


Sunday, 7 February 2016

PRUNING FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES



PRUNING FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES

The dormant season from November till the end of March is the time when we prune our fruit trees and bushes. I often choose a frosty day or when the ground is covered with snow when I can’t get on with other work. However leave plum trees till summer otherwise there is a risk of silver leaf infection from airborne spores entering the cut surfaces.
The pruning of apples, pears, outdoor peaches and cherries has changed over the years as new dwarfing rootstocks are found, and demand to grow small trees increases as space gets restricted. So now as well as standard trees for the large garden, we can have half standard and commercial spindle bush training allowing all picking to be carried out from the ground. For the smaller garden we now get cordons, fan trained trees, upright columner forms and stepover trees only growing a couple of feet tall, (as long as you summer prune them.)
Anna picking bramble Helen
The principles involved in pruning all of these different forms is very similar. We aim to control the balance between strong growth and fruiting, and opening up centres to allow light in for ripening the fruit. Old wood that has fruited for five or more years also needs removing periodically to be replaced by some young shoots that will grow in its place for the next five years.
Autumn Bliss raspberries
However cordons, fan shapes and stepovers all fruit on a system of spurs created by cutting growth shoots to a few inches long in late summer to ripen up the shoots, then cutting them back further in winter to form fruiting spurs.
However in the early years after planting we prune to establish the shape intended for the tree as bush, fan, stepover and oblique cordon all need treated differently.
Brambles (blackberries) and raspberries are similar to prune. Summer fruiting types, fruit on shoots grown the previous year, so we remove the old shoots that fruited last year right down to the crowns at ground level, and tie in new shoots. Autumn fruited rasps and the new primocane brambles such as Reuben have all their growth removed in winter as they will fruit on shoots produced in the same year. Reuben had a bad year with me in 2015 as the young shoots flowered in November, far too late for fruiting. Hope it does better this year.
Blackcurrants fruit best on young shoots formed the previous year so we prune to remove some old wood to encourage a supply of new shoots every year.
Apple Fiesta
Red and white currants are similar but the young shoots form spurs so we retain them for several years. Try and establish an open centred framework of about nine main shoots, replacing a few of these each year as new young shoots grow from the base of the bush. All sideshoots are cut back to their main shoot to form spurs in winter.
Gooseberries are usually grown as a bush on a central leg about a foot tall. There are usually plenty of young shoots grown every year and fruiting is usually heavy so the main aim of winter pruning is to remove those branches too close to the ground to prevent fruit getting soil splashes, and keeping the centres open to make picking easier. Gooseberries like red and white currants can also be trained as cordons on walls and fences where space is limited. 
Figs up north are best grown in a sheltered spot against a warm south facing wall and planted in a prepared pit lined with slabs to restrict growth and encourage fruiting. Initial pruning is carried out to create a fan shape against
Chinese witch hazel
the wall. Subsequent pruning removes shoots growing away from the wall, keeping the centre open and reducing any long vigorous shoots. Summer prune young shoots by tipping them back to several leaves to encourage fruit bud formation.

Wee jobs to do this week
The weather has been so wet this year that outdoor gardening activity has been greatly curtailed, but it has also been very mild and this has brought forward the flowering of the early bulbs, so whenever the sun shines wander outside and just enjoy those snowdrop and aconites. Its been a good year for the Chinese witch Hazel, Hamamelis molis and Mahonia Charity, both looking great while the sun shines. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and many other dwarf bulbs are all well advanced and even my rhubarb crowns are all swollen up ready to start growing after this wet but mild winter.

END

Thursday, 4 February 2016

ROSES



ROSES

Fifty year ago every decent garden had roses in beds, growing along fences, growing up walls and a few tall shrub roses along garden boundaries. However, time moves on and life changes. Chemicals previously used to combat black spot, mildew and rust are no longer available so these diseases are now running rampart through many great varieties. Roses have lost their appeal and now plant breeders have a struggle to bring in a new roses with great floral merit, scented flowers and healthy leaves with built in disease resistance. I have discarded a lot of bush and shrub roses recently, but fortunately there are still a few good ones left. Some still get attacked, but seem to survive and still flower just fine. There is still some rose fungicides available which I use for those such as the white scented Margaret Merril which I do not want to lose.

Other favourites still in my garden include the red scented E H Morse, the bicolour Piccadilly, Arthur Bell, a great yellow, the orange Dawn Chorus and the pinks Wendy Cussons, Myriam and Congratulations. Two great reds are Ingrid Bergman which has some scent and National Trust with a perfect rose flower shape but no scent.
New varieties appear every year so it is wise to try out something new and most garden centres display them in pots during the early flowering season so you can see the flower, smellthem to see if  it has a scent and see if the foliage looks healthy.
My best shrub roses include the very old pink Ispahan, the pink striped Rosa mundi and Gertrude Jekyll, another scented pink shrub rose which I train as a climber. My other climbers which have given me great value, brilliant displays and very little disease is the red Dublin Bay, now twelve foot tall and Mme. Alfred Carrier at least eighteen feet tall. It really needs a massive amount of space and takes a lot of work with pruning and tying in.

Planting new roses
Roses are permanent plants so need a lot of ground preparation prior to planting to improve the soil structure and drainage. New ground for roses should be double dug incorporating plenty manure or compost, and then dusted with a slow release organic fertiliser such as bone meal. Choose a good day for planting and don’t plant the bushes too deep. A compost mulch applied in spring is very beneficial. Planting bare root bushes can be done any time from November to March, but container grown bushes can be planted all year round as long as they are watered in any dry spells.
Prune shoots after planting, by removing about half the growth to encourage new growth.
 
Pruning existing roses
With bush roses remove weak shoots, some old wood and trim others by about a third to an outward facing bud. Shrub roses only need tidying up of old shoots trailing on the ground and periodically remove some old wood to encourage fresh new shoots.
Climbing roses need the most attention as they grow so tall and put on a lot of growth, but the principle is the same. Remove all weak shoots, try and remove some old shoots every year, but only lightly prune last years shoots as these will flower this year. Remove any shoot growing away from the wall if it cannot be tied in. Space out and tie in long shoots so they all have plenty of room.
 
Wee jobs to do this week

A cold frosty day is often a good time to prune the raspberries as the weather restricts gardening in other places. Autumn fruited varieties are the easiest as they are cut back to a few buds at ground level. New shoots emerge in spring, grow tall in summer then fruit from August onwards. Summer fruiting varieties fruit on canes grown the previous year so all last years fruited canes are removed down to the ground. They are easy to recognise as they are brown rather than green and they are all tied in rather than loose. Tie in the new canes with a running knot spacing them four inches apart along the top wire.

END