Notes from my Garden – With Susie Tucker
I have had a request for advice on how. when and what to prune in the garden. Hopefully you’ll find this helpful, and you can always post any question on Millom and the Surrounding Areas page, and you will get all the answers you need, form a variety of very experienced gardeners.
As a rule of thumb, you prune and shape all your flowering bushes just after they have finished flowering. October is the last month to trim and prune, before the frost sets in, and before the insects move in to hibernate in your plants. Decidious hedges should be shaped now, to the shape you’d like them to be most of the summer, because in the spring and early summer there might be birds nesting in them, and they can’t be cut. All the plants that flower after May/June can be cut in the autumn. The spring/ early summer plants, like Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camelias get pruned just after they finish flowering, then you’re not cutting off next year’s blooms.
The task of cutting and pruning all the plants that you have been looking after all summer can be a bit daunting, but there are good reasons to prune – your plant is not the shape you want it to be, so shape it now to how you like it to be, or there are some dead bits which will take energy out of your plant, and it needs to go into healthy wood instead, and you want to encourage it to do better next year. Roses, both standard and climbing should be cut down and pruned now, before the first frost sets in. With standard roses, you cut out all dead wood, right back to the stem, using sharp secateurs, so as not to tear at the wood, and invite disease in. The healthy shoots get trimmed to about a foot or two high, always find an outward-facing shoot, and cut just above it, on an inward slant, so that rainwater drains off and doesn’t rot the wood. On climbing roses you cut all the weak side shoots, to make for more vigorous growth and more blooms next year.
Hydrangeas can be pruned now, but I like to leave that until spring, because the skeleton of the flower will protect next year’s flower buds that grow just under this years flower, from the frost – then, in the spring, I cut off all the last years blooms, and also try to open up the bush by cutting out a third of the old stems to make it more airy. I also like to halve the Budleja down in the Autumn, to stop the roots from being damaged by the top of the bush rocking away in the wind. And then in the spring I cut it right down to a few inches – it seems a bit drastic, but it will grow as tall as it was this year, and much more sturdily.
Some perennial border plants in the border also need pruning now as the thatch that sits on top of the roots can cause it to rot, and invite in disease, so I trim them back to give them light and air, and come spring, they will be faster to jump into action. The plants that really benefit from an autumn cut back are Crocosmia, Daylily, Aquilegia, Catmint, Asters, Bearded Iris and Hardy Geraniums.
And this time of the year is also the best time to sow a wild flower lawn. The best place to do this is in a patch that is not very fertile in your garden, this discourages grass to take over your display, and the native wild flowers thrive in poor quality soil, so if you have a corner of your garden that is not good for anything else, this is a good way to fill it up with colour and wildlife, you will have bees, butterflies and birds feeding on the nectar from the blooms. You can also make this in a large pot in your back yard. You will need to remove the lawn of the area that you want to sow. I tend to do a cross shape along the space and sow the seeds into this – it saves me from having to dig up the whole area. There are all sorts of different wild flower seeds available, but I would recommend to go for a mix of native flower, or a “Bee Bomb”. If it starts to look a bit scruffy, you can cut it back, but wait till most of the flowers have set seeds, and cut it high up, so that the seeds get scattered back onto the soil, and get a chance to germinate for next season, giving you a better display.