Today we were…

Pruning the Wisteria.  There are 3 in this garden, all very established plants that flower well and grow like monsters.  One is trained up the front of the house, one trained as a hedge (much like at Sissinghurst), and one trained up a post on the pergola in the shape of a tree.

Wisteria needs pruning twice a year, in the summer and winter.

Last year, when I didn’t prune one of the Wisterias as we simply ran out of time, the flowers and the leaves came together.  The reason for pruning now is that a flowering spur also contains leaf buds.  By pruning the spur back to 2 buds now should promote flowering before leaf growth.

We shall see.

 

An ice early start..

Please forgive me for my fortnight break – but you know how it is when the festivities and their organisation interrupt the gardeners’ journey and put pay to taking stock of  British beauty at it’s alternative best.

That doesn’t actually mean we stopped gardening at all though, just the recording of the days have gone amiss.

I couldn’t resist returning to my blog IMG_2406

on a day of opportunity to capture Jack Frost working his fingers of magic

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I finally remembered some food for the robin today, in the form of crumbs of cheddar cheese.  I hope that and the mealworms we dug for him keep him going through these lean days.

Views of the Winter garden

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Today the garden was just magical…

Yesterday started well

It was rather dull and overcast but not too cold, so we set to work pruning and tying-in the climbing roses at the back of the main border.  Quite an enjoyable job allowing the  creative juices to flow…

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The aim being to keep the stems close to horizontal as they produce many more flowering spikes in the summer.  We tie them all in to wires with garden twine.  All they’ll need now is a good feed of manure at the base.

Tying-in the roses involves taking off the gloves and with a short but freezing shower of rain that felt like needles in my skin, I was glad Martin had a fire going to warm us up again.

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However I was ready to finish by mid-afternoon. Those roses were done and so was I!

Winter gardening..

I had to take a photo of the naked tree that looks so perfect, on the way to work:

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I always thought, when I drove passed, that this was the most perfectly symmetrical tree. Today I stopped and took a couple of pics from different angles.  Alas no. Apparently nearly all trees grow more strongly on one side than the other, mainly due to the light conditions.

So not perfect at all, but great for helping one navigate? (I think they grow more strongly on the southern side)

First thing to do at the garden today was cutting back some ivy on the wall that definitely looked neglected (aha me thinks, great for christmas wreaths!) I then got stuck into cutting back the Hellebore leaves to reveal the beautiful flower buds emerging from the ground.

Hello! my pet robin brings me a worm

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then eats it and is gone..

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Not for long.  it sits on my bucket for a photo call

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Wow, I really love this robin.

In the background are beautiful blue flowers in the shade. They really sing out in a dark corner.

The Vinca major (periwinkle) is flowering

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Next stop, raising the canopy of the date palm (taking off the lower branches)

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That fibrous trunk is fascinating.

It is now easier to weed beneath and dig out the bramble roots.

Digging up brambles is another great Winter job.  Satisfying to get the roots out and keeps you warm and that was it for the next 4 hours…

Where did the day go?

 

 

So what do you do when the garden is all frosty?

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Well my advice is… do anything that will keep you warm for the first couple of hours of the day, as the sun comes up and starts to take the chill out of the air.

Raking is perfect on an ice cold morning.  The leaves are easy to rake up and collect.

Turning the compost, emptying the bins and mulching the beds.  That really gets the internal heat burning and blood pumping to fingers and toes.

Starting the day like this, I felt energised and ready to go,   The sun shining across the lawns and through the tree skeletons was a sight to behold.

I even fed 4 robins a couple of days worth of mealworms from the compost.

One robin (our favourite) sat on the wheelbarrow and sang along to La Boheme on the radio and then sat on my shoulder.

Well that really made my day, I couldn’t ask for more.

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An eye for the roses

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I really wish my photography could do this more justice.

Sophie’s passion is pruning roses, particularly climbing ones.  Yesterday afternoon I was busy with the compost and she decided to sort out one of the roses on the pergola.  When I went over at break time, I was bowled over by the beauty of the structure of the rose that she had pruned and ‘created’. It was  twined, wrapped and carefully wound round the timber posts in such a stylish romantic way, almost like an illustration from a fairy tale….

She surely is the best in all the land!

 

Forget shopping – 5 tasks to do in the garden now and some tips for a rainy day

    I know it’s very grey outside and also very damp but don’t let that put you off. There are still about 7 hours of decent daylight each day so get out there and do your thing.
    Finish cutting back those herbaceous perennials.  Some, such as Sedums, you may have kept for winter structure but find they have  collapsed already.  Give them up to the compost bin and think of the money you are saving next year when you can mulch your own beds with what you have made.
Sedum spectabile

Sedum spectabile

      Give those paths a weed, scrape and hose down. Enjoy the comfort that a tidy path can bring.  Many weeds are quite weak at the moment so it’s an easier time to do this job.

 

    Cover up tender plants that are too big (or too planted!) to move to shelter. You can either try pegging on a protective membrane, or buy them pre-made into bags with a drawstring.  I prefer the coloured green bags that don’t look so obtrusive:

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    These Echium pininana, will stand a much greater chance of survival this way.
    Keep sweeping leaves off the lawn – Hooray for leaf mould. We must count ourselves lucky that we get it for free.  Either add to the compost, or pile in special area just for decomposing leaves or bag it up into black bin liners, tie the tops and stab the bags with holes.  Hide under a tree or behind the shed and leave to decompose.
    Prune rambling roses:

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    These ones grow along wires at the moat edge.  We cut out the dead, diseased or damaged wood first.  Then we take out some of the older stems right back to the base.
    Of the remaining stems we cut back all the side shoots to 3 or 4 buds and when all that is done we tie them back to the wires keeping them  close to the horizontal (to increase the number of flowering stems) but in a decorative and wavy pattern.  We always use garden twine that will gradually rot away and not damage the plant.

So…. we are still out there looking after gardens and plants.

Todays garden stars are the gorgeous rose-hips and colourful Salvias, which are still clinging to their vibrant flowers despite what the weatherman keeps throwing at them.

 

Top Tips for a Wintery Rainy Day

  1. Start the day with a warm up job –  like raking
  2. At least 3 x pairs of gloves and 2 x hats, to be exchanged during the day.
  3. A good pair of waterproofs and equally a change of clothes half way through a session.
  4. Thick socks and thick soled waterproof boots (I love my muck boots)
  5. Some good music on the radio or a enjoyable play or a great friend to chat to.
  6. A friendly robin to keep you entertained, to feed and keep your spirits high
  7. Hot drinks all day and soup for lunch.
  8. A warm house and hot bath to warm up those bones at the end of the day