Wednesday, 9 February 2011

09.02. Radical pruning

It’s been a lovely weather yesterday and today; 14 degrees this afternoon :-) I have spent both days in the garden trying to get some more jobs done. Today I tackled another job I have dreaded doing for a long time...Have a look at this photo of my garden from today, apart from being rather empty in the beds, as one can expect at this time of year, there are also quite a few evergreen plants dotted around, so that there is “something green” at all times.

One of those evergreens is a Photinia, commonly called Red Robin, a bush that can grow quite tall, almost like a tree. You can see it at the bottom of the garden, in the right hand corner, behind the tall tree trunk. (Click on the photo to get a larger version, use the back-button to get back here). I bought mine in 2002, in a small pot, and trimmed it meticulously until I had it growing as a standard (one-stemmed), which is not exactly its nature to do – but I think it looks nice as a lollipop tree. However, with the rate these bushes grows, they need trimming several times a year, and in the summer 2008 I slipped up, and the Photinia grew completely out of hand. In 2009 I discovered that the piece of wood that was supporting the stem and was meant to keep the bush strait was rotted off underground, and the whole bush had now started to lean forward. Because the crown of the bush no longer was a nice, tight little lollipop, but a huge mass of leaves, I had no means of getting into the centre and put a new stake in the ground. 

The final blow came last spring, when the foxes decided to dig a tunnel between my garden and my next door neighbour’s garden!  Here is a picture showing the start of the tunnel, but you can’t really appreciate how deep it is unless you try putting your arm through it. Remember, a fully grown fox can easily run through this tunnel! The tunnel digging damaged the roots to the Photinia, and around a third of the roots have no longer anywhere to go, except into thin air, and that made the whole bush almost topple over. You can’t really see that from the photo above, but the trunk is leaning at an approximate 45 degree angle! Drastic measures were necessary in order to rectify this, and today I decided to just get it done. I cut off all the branches two-third in, so all the leaves are off. That way I could get close enough to
put a new stake in the ground and push the trunk back into an almost vertical position. It’s been leaning for so long that it refused to go completely straight, but I will leave it like this for a while and push a bit more when the roots have got used to the new position. The bush looks like something from a nuclear war disaster after its “number one cut”, and next to the dead conifer, which looks pretty much the same (see my post from January 22) I can’t exactly say it looks pretty at the bottom of my garden...but my hope is that within 6-8 weeks the Photinia will have lots of small leaves shooting everywhere. Or, it might just die from the shock of being stripped from most of its branches – in which case the whole thing will be heading for the Newham garden waste recycling!
Here is another bush that can look like a tree when it’s fully grown – which can be up to 5 m – with usually the same size in width. This is a Garrya Elliptica, or a Tassel tree and it is rather pretty right now as the catkins are in full flower. They almost look like pearls cascading down the thin stalks. My Garrya won’t ever become 5 m tall; in fact, it hasn’t grown in height at all the last 2-3 years. That’s because I grow it in a tub instead of in the ground, which restricts the growth. But I didn’t get as many catkins this year as I used to get so perhaps it is about time to either give it a bigger tub or give the bush a permanent home in the ground. I just don’t know where that should be, my garden is so small and if I planted it in the ground the Garrya would probably be so grateful for finally getting enough soil between
its roots that it would reward me with one meter growth upwards and outwards every year for the next 4 years. Eeek! I think I just decided on getting a bigger tub...but that’s going to be a job and a half...the tub weighs half a ton, I really struggle just to push it a bit when I sweep the front garden, never mind trying to lift the tub! But one way or the other, getting this bush to keep flowering like this year after year will be worth the struggle, the catkins really do make a lovely appearance at a time when there’s not much else around in people’s gardens. 
There are crocuses everywhere at the moment! I have them spread out both at the sunny side and in the shade so the flowering season gets as long as possible. Each crocus doesn’t flower for very long, but when you have about 100 of them it does help :-) And they are a ray of sunshine among the bare branches and empty beds waiting for
things to happen. I have thought of planting snowdrops in between the crocuses... I have thought of that for several years, but not got around to doing it. Maybe I should put that down as a task for the autumn; would be lovely to have the snowdrops flowering first and then the crocuses taking over just when the snowdrops finishes.
I also just have to show you a photo of my Viburnum Farreri (My Ferrari in the garden :-)). I did post a photo of it last month here on my blog, but at that point the flowers were barely showing; now they have completely opened up. I so wish this blog was a smelly-blog so you could smell the scent from this flower, because it is just an incredibly sweet, intense scent which is so lovely. A lot of winter flowering plants have a strong scent, in order for the few insects around to find them and pollinate them, and this Viburnum is no exception to the rule. I could actually smell it from the other end of the garden today! Just a shame the flowers only last for a week or two and then it’s a whole year till next time!

Well, I think you are pretty updated with what’s going on in my garden at the moment, tomorrow we are promised rain, loads of it, and for once I am not going to complain – my garden really needs it now. If it turns out to be just a shower or two I think I will need to get the hose out for most of the tubs, they are the first one to suffer when we have had a longer spell of dry weather. We'll see, according to the forecast it should rain most of the day so if that’s true it will help a lot. That’s it for tonight, till next time, take care.

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