Sunday 30 January 2011

30.01. Dregea pruning

Hi, I thought I would give you an update on how my garden is coming along. Considering it’s still January, it’s quite a lot happening out there! Yesterday I finally got started on pruning the dreaded Dregea sinesis, the plants that cover the arch in the middle of the garden. If you have read my previous posts you will know that it is the one thing every year that I really am not looking forward to do...for several reasons; one being that the plant emits a sticky sap when you prune the branches that itch when it hits bare skin, and the sap is also nearly impossible to get out of your hair. The sap is meant to go down into the roots in the winter and leave the plant dormant until the spring, but my plants never read that book, they are full
of sap through the winter no matter how cold it is, and the last week it has been minus degrees every day. 

I had a good start yesterday, but didn’t get as far as halfway, it was just too cold. If you have never been to London in the winter you won’t know what I am talking about but the icy cold wind which we get in the winter here goes straight through your bones. I would rather have minus 25 in Norway than minus 5 in London. Seriously! It really is a very different kind of cold. So, yesterday, in minus 3 and covered in as much clothes as I could possibly put on, I started pruning, and realised that the plants were full of sap this year too. Wonderful. But I did make one nice discovery; I found a seedpod :-) There were 16 seeds in the pod so now I got 8 pots with 2 seeds in each waiting for some bleak sunshine to hit them so they can start germinating. It’s always nice to have backup of your plants, in case something never know. This particular plant, Dregea sinensis is not exactly one you can just go out and buy should a disaster occur with the ones you have – they are not sold in ordinary garden centres, you have to order them from specialist nurseries. I got mine as cuttings from someone and have successfully sown seeds from the mother plant and given away several plants over the years. It is actually an evergreen plant from China, but in Britain it loses its leaves in the winter because of the low temperatures. On many descriptions of this plant you will see that it is not supposed to survive winters below plus 5 degrees, but clearly it does! My plants don’t know that either, and are happily surviving one frosty winter after the other, not even climbing a south facing wall, as is recommended, but freestanding on an arch! Oh, well...good thing the plants can’t read, they don’t know what they are supposed to survive or not! I pruned the Dregea really hard this time, as you can doesn’t seem to be much left! But just wait, come August I might say the same as I said last August; I should have cut back much more!

I did say earlier on that there is a lot happening in my garden at the moment, despite still being January...just! So, I took some photos today to show you and here is the first real sign of spring: the first crocuses to flower :-) These are my favourite, the tiger striped crocuses in yellow and brown. I have some more ordinary looking ones in yellow and blue, but they are later to emerge so at the moment all you can see of them are the spiky leaves.

The Hellebores are on their way too, here is the first one, just about to pop its maroon flowers. This particular plant sometimes flower twice in the same year, the second time in the summer, and when it flowers in the summer the flowers are pale pink! I don’t know if that’s a common event with Hellebores, or if I have an incredible unusual plant in my garden, but I have 3 Hellebores, and only this one sometimes flowers a second time, and in a different colour. If you have a Hellebore that does the same, please leave me a message, it would be interesting to compare notes!

I posted a picture of the Chaenomeles a while ago, the whole bush is in flower at the moment – characteristically without a single leave yet, they come later on. This plant is such a show-off at this time of year, when most of my flower beds are rather empty. This one is called Chaenomeles x superba 'Crimson and Gold' and bears fruit later in the year.

Speaking of fruit, look at these berries! They are like small traffic lights in the flower bed, and for some reason, the birds are not picking them. Perhaps they don’t taste good, because birds prefer red berries before any other colour, so I am so surprised every year that they are left in peace. The plant is a Skimmia, I have both a Skimmia japonica “Rubella”, which is a male plant, and this one which is a female plant – hence the berries, called Skimmia japonica “Bowle's Dwarf”. In order to get the female plant to produce berries, the two plants need to be planted close to each other so that pollination can happen. The male plant is just to the left outside of this picture.

I have had berries on this plant every year since 2005 when I got it. But for some reason, the birds are staying well clear of this area and are not even attempting to nibble at them. Just look at that colour, have you ever seen anything that red?! Both Skimmias are going to flower later in the spring, so I will post pictures when that happen, but the berries are actually remaining on the bush from late November to sometimes June/July, when the new berries form, and for a while there will be a mix of both red and green berries.

OK, I think you are up-to-date with my garden for today; lots of things happening from now on out there, and at such a pace that some things can be missed if I don’t go outside for a few days! Until next time, take care :-)

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