It was 6 degrees in London at 2 o’clock today. SIX degrees! And when most people were wrapped up at home in front of their fires, what do you think I did? I was outside in my garden, pruning!! Well, today was a perfect day for pruning the rest of my Dregea sinensis, and as I wrote yesterday, in my post Dregea sinensis, part 1, what I managed to do yesterday wasn’t even half of the job.
So out I went today, wearing no less than 4 layers of jumpers and cardigans under my old gardening coat, a big scarf and a woolly knitted hat I only use when pruning the Dregea (to protect my hair) although I wish I had one of those big environmental suits with helmets and all, as no matter of clothes can protect you from drips of sap from the plants. I wrote extensively about that yesterday so I am not going to repeat it all today, just refer you to my post from yesterday. This picture shows how far I got yesterday, and on a distance it looks like I did nothing, but I can assure you my council recycling garden waste bin was half full by the time I gave up yesterday!
And here is a photo halfway today, left and right side merged on the same photo. (Click to get a larger version.) As you can see to the left, the branches look like the mess you get in a big bag of knitting yarn that a cat has been allowed to play with, a complete chaos! And just like trying to sort out tangled knitting yarn, sorting out these branches requires patience and a careful hand. Pull too hard and the branches you want to keep will break, and it is always the ones you have decided to keep that breaks! But one thing I’ve learned over the years; this plant is so vigorous when established that it needs a very hard prune to keep in shape over an arch – it really doesn’t matter if you take off a branch or two more than you planned! The right side here is finished and re-twined; the lianas have to be helped back on the arch after pruning.
Here are the seeds I found yesterday, and after pruning the left side too today I found even more seeds but by then it was too dark for another photo of them. I have almost twice as many seeds as you see here and I haven’t had any rush of emails to get seeds yet so if you are interested in seeds or cuttings for free, please read my post from yesterday about how to contact me to get your hand on some :-) I got my plants as cuttings I took from a plant in 2005. The mother plant was grown from seeds bought from abroad, not really sure from where but most likely from Holland. The cuttings I took spent their life in pots the first year or so supported by a cane, and were planted next to the arch the following year, in 2006, when they flowered for the first time. See my post from yesterday to follow the development from small plants in 2006 to fully developed plants on the arch creating almost like a tunnel every autumn.
Just to remind you, here is a photo of the flowers of the Dregea sinensis. The flowers are strongly scented, with a very sweet and fruity scent which can be most noticeable in the evening after a sunny day. The Dregea is mostly free of pests, but I have had years with both greenfly and black fly infestations. I think it varies according to what kind of spring we have, and I see the same thing on other plants in my garden, especially my roses. Some years the greenfly is terrible, other years it’s not that bad and the only difference is temperature and how early/late spring is. I use an organic pesticide against greenfly, black fly and red spider mite, the 3 worst garden pests I have (apart from the red lily beetle!!), and this pesticide, which is actually a highly concentrated soy oil with several herbs, is poured on the soil, washed down in the ground with lots of water, taken up by the leaves, and hey presto, for 4-5 weeks the 3 most common pests in my garden refuse to chomp away on leaves and flowers like they usually do! Couldn’t be easier; it’s not a chemical as such and completely organic. I love it, just a shame it’s quite expensive, but that’s what an easy life cost :-) I use it on all the plants in my garden which are prone to greenfly and red spider mite, in my London garden that means almost half of my plants. Wonder what this amazing product is called? Google ‘Pireco LWS insecticide’ and you’ll soon find if it is available where you live. I use the liquid, not the capsules, as the liquid is more economical, but if you only have a few plants with pest problems, then capsules could be just as good for you. There are several online companies in the UK that sells these products.
I decided that I just had to finish pruning today, no matter how late it got, and late it did get! By the time I considered myself happy with the result it was getting dark and I actually could not get a photo unless I used the flash. I have never taken a gardening photo with my flash! But in doing so, you can actually see the remaining branches on the arch better than you possibly could have if I had taken the photo 2 hours earlier, so not such a bad idea after all then :-) I have taken off more branches than ever before, but I am hoping to keep the shape of the arch for the whole summer and autumn, and not end up as I did last autumn; with a tunnel to crouch through. If this doesn’t work I see no other solution than to chop the whole thing off 1 foot above ground. That would be easy though, very easy, a much easier job than what I am doing now; untangling all the branches one by one to cut off most and keep every 10th or so. Cutting off all of it would be dead easy. Let’s see what it looks like next September, if it looks OK then it will be same procedure next year. If it is still a bit of a monster then I might consider going for a chop come January 2013! Whatever the case is, it is a whole year till next time, and I am pretty pleased with that! Now I can just wait for the leaves to come out in a few months time, and the flowers will start to appear in about 3-4 months. Incidentally, the leaves are very soft, they feel like handkerchiefs! I wouldn’t advise you to blow your nose in it, as the sap is an irritant and could cause an itch to your face, but take a leave and stroke it carefully without bruising it and it feels so soft you won’t believe it! I guess after all this you’re just going to have to get your own Dregea sinensis, aren’t you :-)
That’s it for tonight, tomorrow is ‘Garden Blogger Bloom Day’ and I thought I would take part for the first time. Some people would perhaps say that London in January isn’t the right time of year to showcase blooming flowers in your garden, but you’d be surprised by the number of plants that are in flower right now at the back of my house. Come back tomorrow and have a walk with me through my garden and I’ll show you, until then, take care :-)