Garden Lore

“I am sensibly obliged, my dear Lord, by your great goodness, and am most disposed to take the gardener you recommend, if I can…. I have a gardener that has lived with me above five-and-twenty years; he is incredibly ignorant, and a mule. When I wrote to your Lordship, my patience was worn out, and I resolved at least to have a gardener for flowers. On your not being able to give me one, I half consented to keep my own; not on his amendment, but because he will not leave me, presuming on my long suffering. I have offered him fifteen pounds a year to leave me, and when he pleads that he is too old, and that nobody else will take him, I plead that I am old too, and it is rather hard that am not to have a few flowers, or a little fruit as long as I live.”

Horace Walpole, Letter to the Earl of Harcourt, October 18, 1777.

007 - CopySummer pruning

Pruning time is over for most woody plants because cutting back is best carried out in winter and spring but there are a few exceptions. Cherry trees (prunus) are one. These are best pruned in mid summer (so January or early February). This greatly reduces the likelihood of the dreaded silver blight getting in through the wounds. There is no differentiation between fruiting and ornamental varieties when it comes to timing of pruning. Other close relatives which are best summer pruned include plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds.

Wisterias will need pruning, probably right now. This is not complicated. Just trim back the long growths at this time to keep them under some semblance of control. Hedgeclippers or secateurs are fine. The winter prune is the important one to manage flowering. Remove any growth around the base or it will escape and layer, forming roots as it slithers along the ground.

Roses can be gently summer pruned as you deadhead, to keep a good shape. Take the time to gather up any diseased leaves while you are about it and burn the lot if you can. Keeping up the water and nutrition levels encourages roses to keep growing so new leaves will continue to form, along with more flower buds on repeat flowering varieties.

Hybrid clematis can be cut back very hard after their flowering flush has finished – and by hard, I mean to about 20cm. Feed them and keep them watered and most will reward you with another flush in about six week’s time. This works for most large flowered types and the advice came from a clematis specialist.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.