No time to chill out

Keith Mundy

Welcome to another winter with the ground at saturation point after so much rain in our local area that, in turn, should be a great start to spring in three months. Deciduous plants are starting to commence their winter dormancy that, in turn, leads to many tasks in the garden that need to be completed before winter sets in.

During this month with plants going into dormancy, pruning should commence in the rose garden and orchard.

Spring/summer flowering roses should be pruned reasonably hard, as the newer growth they make in early Spring will encourage many more blooms. If you are unsure of the severity of pruning, then these few tips will help.

  • Initially remove all dead or damaged wood.
  • Remove any branches that are crossing over another branch or are growing into the centre of the bush. The idea is to keep the centre of the bush open in a vase shape to allow for better air circulation. This will decrease the possibility of fungal diseases when the plants come into leaf again in spring.
  • Reduce all the other growth by as much as half, remembering to ensure you have live buds below the cut and the upper most bud is pointing away from the centre of the plant basically pointing in the direction you want the new growth to grow.

An important thing to remember when doing your roses is not to prune those that have only one flowering period in summer. Generally, climbing varieties flower on the current season’s growth and, if pruned in winter, there will be no late spring flowers. Pruning of these roses takes place in late summer after they have flowered.

The pruning of deciduous fruit trees is a bit more complicated and if you are unsure of the technique, I suggest you contact a professional horticulturist for some help.

Once all the roses and trees have been pruned, complete a spray of winter oil and a winter fungicide to remove any over-wintering insect pests and fungal diseases.

The selection and planting of deciduous fruit trees can now commence. Many deciduous fruit trees require a cross pollinator to set fruit. Ask your local nursery person for the correct pollinator for the trees you require.

Pruning of hydrangeas should also now take place and a similar method of pruning to roses is recommended. Summer-flowering hydrangeas flower on growth that has been made in spring on new season wood so the more that this is encouraged the more flowers you will have.

Now is a good time to divide and relocate summer-flowering bulbs like dahlia and other herbaceous perennials. Divide them with a sharpened spade and dust with a fungicide to prevent any damage to the cut. Plant them in the new position with a combination of cow manure, a handful of blood and bone and your existing soil. Remember that most herbaceous perennials like a well- drained soil, so slightly raised garden beds in full sun are the ideal.

Still on the theme of pruning it should be well remembered that not every flowering tree or shrub in the garden needs to be pruned in winter. I have seen many spring-flowering plants heavily pruned in winter and then no blossom appears in spring. Spring-flowering trees and shrubs develop their flowering buds in late summer and autumn and if these plants require pruning, do it in late spring after flowering. They then have all the following seasons to develop new flowering wood.

Remember to ensure all your pruning tools are well sharpened and clean before you start.