The plant of the week this week is a widely planted shrub that’s really starting to look great at this time of the year. And it rightly deserves this wide planting for its a tough plant
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ is a evergreen shrub that sometimes is called Silk tassel bush or Quinine bush. It is a native of USA where it grows in a couple of different areas, the first one is on the coast of South Oregon and into California very near the coast well within 20miles of it. The other place it can be found growing on the mountains around the Pacific coastline in areas like Montana and San Bruno mountain ranges. It tends to grow 200m above sea level in the more damper spots along the coast.
It was first discovered by one of the greatest plant collectors of all America, David Douglas in 1828. Garrya was named after Garry Nichols. Garry Nichols was the deputy governor of the Hudson Bay company and managed the merger between them and North West Company. Hudson Bay Company controlled the fur trade throughout North America and is still going as a trading company selling anything from clothes to digital space. The cultivar James Roof was named after the director of Tilden botanical gardens, California where this form was found growing in amongst some seedlings.
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ is an evergreen shrub with a sea green foliage. It makes a shrub that will reach 4m in height and width and makes both a great free standing shrub as well as a wall Plant. Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ makes a Great Wall shrub thriving on a north facing wall. It’s grown for its very beautiful greenish/grey catkins at start showing early winter and then open up around now to their full length of 20-35cm in the case of the male form James Roof. These catkins are really what this stunning shrub is grown for. Once they have finished flowering, they can stay on the shrubs for months after they have finished. It is pretty tough shrub, Hardy down to -15c but it will suffer a bit of browning on the leaves and some dieback at these temperatures. It prefers a soil that is pretty damp but is free draining, it will survive in drier soils but never does as well. It will quite take slightly acidic and alkaline soils, ideally in the PH range of 6-8. I have grown it on shallow soils over chalk without too many problems. It’s prefect for poor soils and coastal areas. Pruning wise it just needs a little shaping in April cutting the growth from last year down to a couple of buds on established plants and trim new growth on plants in training, down by half. Feeding is down using a compost mulch and vitax Q4 in around March time. Propagation is best done by semi-ripe cuttings taken in late summer. It is pretty disease and pest free, rabbits and deer don’t really like eating them!
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ is available in most good garden centres and can be seen in most public gardens and in a lot of private gardens as well
If that’s one plant that’s more than likely to get us into a tied up pickle on how to prune is certainly a wisteria. Wisterias seem to have long tentacle like growths that wrap around everything in its path indeed I wonder if J K Rowling thought about wisteria when she came up with Devils snare in Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. Wisteria is actually pretty easy to train and prune, you just need to remember a few things to get the best from it
First the growth
wisteria tend to put on two types of growth, flowering growths that tend to be a short in length up to about 15cm maximum and extension growth. The flowering growths are indeed where the flowers will be borne from May onwards and the extension growth is what helps the plant to expand both in height but also these stems are designed to fit into rock spaces, expand and root and so forth produce another plant. This is part of the reason they love getting underneath slates and tiles.
The shorter growths, these are the flower bearing growths
The longer extension growths, these can be over 5m in length in some cases, also note the seedpods on the shorter growth.
knowing the differences between the two types of growth helps to know which ones to prune. It’s worth remembering also that wisterias can take up to 10 years to flower depending on how they are propagated, so if you can’t see any of the shorter growth on a younger Plant, it means it’s not old enough to flower yet.
It’s very easy with all this very long growth to just tie it in to the height that you want the plant to get too in the end. This ends up with a bare middle and all the growth at the top. It is worth taking time to allow the plant to fill up the gaps and build a frame work of branches up. This is done by reducing the young stems down in length to between 30-60cm. Why do this? Well whatever plant you prune it is the first 2-4 buds that will break. Having them break lower down the plant, will give you a chance to build up a frame work of branches over time. This pruning down to 30-60cm can carry on until the plant has cover the space with each new break treated the same. Once it has a good framework up or indeed the plant is already got a established framework, the extension growth should be pruned down to 3 buds above where it started growing last spring. This is done during the dormant season from December to end of February. If you need to summer prune from July onwards, prune back to 5 buds above the breaking point each time but when pruning in the winter, take these shoots hard back right down to 3 buds from where in broke in the spring. It may seem hard but by doing this, you will encourage more shorter flowering stems to form. If the plant is more established, just forget the 30-60cm training bit and cut straight to the pruning down to 3 buds. The buds on Wisterias are indeed opposite so need a slanting cut away from the bud, more information can be found on my pruning cuts blog here and part 2. Right enough words and onto the photos on how to do it
New growth being cut down to 30-60cm to help form framework branches from the base up. When planting it’s also worth untwisting all the stems as eventually they will strange each other
The extension growth being pruned back to 3 buds on an established framework branch.
A plant before pruning with all the extension growth going a little mad!
And afterwards with the extension growth pruned back to 3 buds and any new framework branches being trained in and cut back to approx 45cm.
This is why we prune them as per above, this is the same plant in flower, every cm of it is covered in flower without one area being bare. It took me 4 years to get it looking like this and it was planted about 6yrs ago now. Taking time to build the framework up is very important.
With older plants that haven’t had as much work done on them in the past, it is worth thinning out the older stems. I find it easier to compare them and after taking out the dead ones, remove the stems with the most length of bare stem or with the smallest amount of branches on. On a plant like this I would be looking at removing 2/3rds of the existing wood to open it up more and then start training in younger stems as a framework into the gaps. Some of the existing large branches can also be bent down to fill in the gaps as well.
The finished plant and you can see how much clearer and managed it looks now. It will take about another 2-3yrs to get the plant to its best
I hope you have found this blog on pruning wisterias helpful, if I can help any more, please feel free to comment below and I will try and answer the query as soon as I can
Well I am delighted to announce that in conjunction with the Chawton House, we will be offering a series of garden workshops over the next year. These workshops are to be held is the beautiful surroundings of Jane Austin’s brothers Hampshire house, where Jane spent many happy days walking around the garden.
The first one on the 6th of March is looking at pruning rambling and climbing roses and the second on the 13th of March is looking at bush and shrub roses. These are all day course with a light lunch and refreshments part of the £75 ticket. There is a maximum of 15 tickets for sale for each day
I have many years of experience pruning roses after learning my trade working with the roses at Mottisfont Abbey Gardens. During these workshops, we shall be looking at the type of roses, the basics of pruning and the reasons behind it, a demonstration followed by a have-ago session with me on hand to advise you.
These workshops cover a wide range of topics looking at detail of getting the best from your roses, looking at feeding, underplanting, pests and diseases that may attack them and how to control them both organically and using chemicals. We all want Plants for nothing don’t we, here’s your chance to learn how to lift and divide Plants, learning how to divide herbaceous Plants with fibrous or more woody root plates. Unsure about what pest and diseases you have in your garden and how to treat them? Then we have a workshop for you, learn about the common pest and diseases in the garden and the ways to control them both chemically and organic!
Rose pruning-rambling and climbing roses
Rose pruning-bush and shrub
Lifting and dividing perennial plants
End of March
Common pest and diseases in the garden
Herbaceous Plant staking
Looking after roses
So if you find your roses a rambling mess, no idea how to control your Hybrid Teas, please contact Chawton House to book yourself on these workshops, their details are as follows: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 01420 541010.
Well one the last part, we looked at the science behind making pruning cuts and best ways of pruning using secateurs and loppers, this week we shall look at using the power horse of hand tools, yes the pruning saw! So what is a pruning saw and how does it differ from say a carpentry saw? Well it’s a much stiffer blade that those types of saws and most of the time cut on the pull. Some can be folded up to fit into your pocket or a fixed blade. Pruning saws are used to prune anything bigger than 15mm and up to well as big as you can cut! A bit like using secateurs, theres no right or wrong ways but there’s always better ways to reduce damage or risks to the tree or plants. First thing is to get the sharpest pruning saw you can get with a sharp clean blade, over the years I have found Silky pruning saws the sharpest and even with these, I tend to change the blade every year so I am using the sharpest I can.
Now the angles of cut depending if the buds are alternate or oppersite are the same as for using secateurs on wood up to a couple of years old but they are a little more difficult to see in the older wood, almost looking for wrinkles in the Wood is almost a sign that buds are there hidden. That said in wood over 25mm thick, I prefer to do a straight cut across. The reasons are simple, the surface area on straight cuts are much smaller than cuts made at an angle, which means the plant has a smaller area to heal over. That even means on the junction of bigger branches. The pruning cut on these bigger branches to the main stem used to be done at an angle on the stem, the angle of the cut was always done just above the ridges or collar on the stem. It was thought these would heal quicker but it’s not really the case as the straight cut will heal a lot sooner.
Removing larger stems using a pruning saw is always best done in stages to reduce the chances of the branches tearing down the stem and causing a bigger damage for the plant to repair. Best way is to reduce the weight of the branch by either putting a cut on the underside of the branch to about a 1/5th of the width of the branch and at least 300mm from the trunk and then the main cut about 50mm above this. If you leave a bigger gap, the branch tends to trap itself in the bottom cut and doesn’t fall cleanly. The branch should snap cleanly off and fall down to the ground, then you finish off the cut neatly on the main stem . That cut is ideal for most pruning cuts. If there’s something underneath you that you don’t want the branch to drop off suddenly and hit, you can cut all the way though in one cut. This at times can cause a tear underneath the stems so I would make this cut at least 1000mm from the main stem in case the cut tears down. After this cut has been made and the branch had fallen down or been grabbed, the next cut needs to lighten the weight on the branch by cutting it down to 500mm before cutting the branch off at the main stem. All the cuts are pictured below
Last main pruning cut is removing stems from the base of shrubs and the key this here is to get the cuts as low as possible. Any stubs left will make the base of the plant look ugly and also mean next time you cut a stem out, you can’t get close to the base and it ends up even more snaggy
one other thing I don’t do is paint the cut area with wound paint. I prefer to let the wound heal naturally and found that the treatment tends to seal in the moisture and cause rot quicker
Picture of a clean drop pruning cut
How it worked
Cutting straight through
A straight though cut that shows the damage that it can cause
The growing collar as described in text
Taking the stump back to the tree at the smallest point, if you had gone back harder, it will result in a larger wound and will take longer to heal
It’s the time of year we all start pruning the dormant summer and autumn flowering shrubs and trees and getting the pruning cuts can be crucial for some plants for so many reasons. First of all you have to remember that you are being a surgeon on the plant and you would hate to have someone cutting you up with a blunt tool so make sure the tool you are using is not only sharp (will be featuring a bit of sharpening soon) but clean as well, if in doubt, just spray it with so household cleaning product that kills 99.9% of all know germs dead! You know the one I mean.
Now one thing to remember is that all plants don’t heal themselves but work to reduce the damaged area to stop fungi and other diseases entering the plant. The plant first of chemical process that reduces the risk of the wound becoming infected and then it callus over in time using callus cell in the stems of the plant. This all depends on the type of shrub or tree you are pruning. Some plants can have very thin bark with a thinner layer of callus cells that can mean the cut takes much longer to heal, roses and beech trees are good examples of this. There is a difference on age of the wood too, the younger twiggy wood doesn’t heal at the wound but near the next available bud. Again that something worth remembering for in a bit.
For this next bit, I am focusing on using secateurs and loppers and will do a bit of using saws later.
First thing to look for is whether the buds are opposite each other or alternate (see pictures) this does change the angle of the cut. With plants that buds are opposite, its best to cut level just top of the buds so basically you don’t damage them. The plant will boast either one or both these buds into life in the spring. Now with alternate buds, you are looking at taking a sloping cut away just above the bud and angled so the bud is at the top of the slope. Some people think that you do that to allow the water to drain away but that’s not the main reason why, it’s done like that so the plant pushes the sap into that bud and allows that bud to break. The cut should be ideally no more than 10mm above the bud as any more above it can result in die back and the stem dying back past that next bud and down to the next, leaving more dead wood in the plant to attract in diseases. One thing to remember though, no one can get it right all the time, not even us professionals, the idea is to aim to get it right most times and try and achieve at least 80% good cuts. Hopefully the pictures below will explain a bit more.
A rose has alternative buds, as you can see there’s no bud opposite
While this Hydrangea has its buds opposite each other
When pruning plants with opposite buds, you aim for a level cut just above the top of the bud
This picture shows the dieback from poorly angled cuts for a rose that has alternate buds. notice the church window of doom and also the damage down into the next bud at times
The alternate bud cut at the right angle with the blue lines showing what is happening to the sap and how it pushes it towards the bud to encourage that one to break.
Well that’s the end of the first part, next time we shall look at using a pruning saw and how to make the bigger cuts with that.
As we head towards Christmas, one of my last jobs I like to do in the garden is remove the leaves on helleborus orientalis and H. x hybridus type hybrids. These are the hellebores that shoot up the flower buds from the base of the plant while others like H.niger, H.argufolius, H x sternii etc all bear the flowers on the leave stems and these should be cut back when they have finished flowering. Helleborus orientalis are also know as Christmas roses as they start flowering roundabout Christmas time and carry on to March. Cutting back the Hellebores helps to show the flowers off much better then they bloom, on some forms, the flowers can be hidden from view by the leaves and again it makes them visible. Another advantage of pruning them back now is removing the old leaves reduces the chances of the new foliage getting hellebore leaf spot (Microsphaeropsis hellebori).
Here’s my step by step guide
1)A group of Hellebores ready to cut back
2) pull back the leaves to show the crown of the plant
3) the red circled bits are the flower buds coming up, these are the ones you want to avoid cutting with the secateurs.
4) now carefully start cutting down the stems as close to the ground as you can
5) I find it best to clear any old stems and leaves out from the crown of the plant as I am cutting back as it makes it clearer to see what I am cutting back and avoiding the buds
6) the finished clump!
6) and in flower!
It’s a nice and easy job to do and one perfect for this weekend!
Whenever you are pruning shrubs there’s always one little bit you can’t reach whether its from the ground or indeed perched on a step ladder, reaching those little bits has always been in the realm of the long arm pruners. I have used many forms in the past and they all have the same problem, the blade! I love using razor sharp secateurs and want all my other pruning equipment to be as sharp but all the long arm pruners I have used in the past, well the blade not to put a fine point on it, has been rubbish! That was until I brought these Japanese made ARS ones. Yes they aren’t cheap at £119.00 but the blade is a Felco quality blade, one that holds it edge better than any other long arm pruners on the current market. It is also easily replaced by undoing a few screws. Now don’t get me wrong, these won’t handle the large range of thick branches that the more robust long arm pruners will manage but it will handle most plant materials up to about 12mm thick making it ideal for fine pruning of things like roses, wisterias, fruit trees and other shrubs. The length starts at 6ft and is easily extendable to the maximum 10ft in 1ft using the push button adjustment, just hold it in and pull the pole until it clicks in, the pruning head is also easy to adjust and goes into 3 different angles to get the right angle to get the best cut. With all the other long arm pruners I have used in the past, to cut anything, you need to pull on a rope or a lever, which isn’t ideal when you are up some steps or moving amongst a load of plants with the cord trapped up somewhere. These have squeezable handle that makes the job of cutting very easy as does the sliding grip for you other hand. The ARS long arm pruners are very well built with the added bonus that all parts are serviceable and replaceable if required. They are very little light to use and in the last six months I have had the pleasure to use them, worked very well and have been easy to look after and keep sharp. Try hard as I can, I can’t find a fault in them, they do what they are intended for, very well and indeed I am left with the feeling it was more of my hard earned money well spent
For light pruning I would whole heartily recommend them
You can buy them from a number of suppliers who do supply ARS. I brought mine from the rather excellent Niwaki and their website can be found by clicking here
The cutting head is well made and easy to sharpen as well as replace if needed. The flexible metal strip is what makes it all work!
The squeezable handles are very easy to use and not caused any blisters yet! They stay closed using the black clip. It is very easy to use and in a great position.
The nice sliding handle is prefect to get your hand in the right place
The length adjustment is pretty easy just press in and pull until you hear a click and the popper pops in to the hole pic below
Well after a couple of weeks of autumn colour through foliage and berries, it’s time for a few flowers that are blooming at this time of year. We always think of Camellias flowering in the spring but the gorgeous sasanqua is an autumn and into early winter flowering type. My plant of the week is indeed a hybrid called ‘Crimson King’ which is one of the best hybrids. It’s large single mainly red flowers open in late October into November and are indeed so beautiful at this time of year.
They are native to Japan, where they are indeed one of the most popular of all Camellias grown and bred there. Camellia was named after Georg Kamel, a 17th century Jesuit missionary while sasanqua comes from the Japanese name for this plant, Sazanka. It is not only grown for the beautiful flowers but the young foliage is used to make a special tea and seeds are used to make the best camellia oil. Camellia oil has a wide variety of uses in Japan including being used to heat cooking and tea equipment and lighting. It also has lots of health benefits to the skin and hair, it was used by the Geisha girls to produce their famous soft skin and also sumo wrestlers in their hair. I also use it to keep my hand tools free of rust just like the Samurai warriors of old did on their swords.
It is hardy here in the uk and is one tough plant, the only problem being that the first frosts can effect the flowers making it an ideal plant to grow in a sheltered part of a garden or against a wall or even a in heated glasshouse or orangery. It makes a pretty open plant floppy at times but can be pruned after flowering to help keep its shape. Soilwise it does like a nice water retentive fee draining acidic soil in full sun. A mulch of organic material and a feed of Vitax Q4 is helpful to the plant in the spring. It is also well worth making sure it doesn’t dry out in the early summer as it is at this time the flower buds for the autumn months are formed. If they dry out they will fail to form properly and fall off the plant. It will make a large shrub overtime in the right spot but don’t let that put you off as regular pruning can keep it in shape. It also does grow very well in pots as long as it is watered enough for the above reasons. Thankfully it’s pretty pest and disease free.
It can be found growing in a lot of gardens like Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, RHS Wisley and Kew. This form is widely for sale but Camellia specialist nurseries like Trehane are good places to try for mail order
As we move more towards the middle of November, the Rose nurseries start lifting the bareroot roses from the ground. What are bareroot roses I hear some of you ask? Well there’s two main ways of buying roses, first one is in a pot with compost that allows the rose to be sold all year around and planted all year around, that’s called containerised. The second way is what is called bareroot and that is just as it sounds, the Rose is dug up without any soil and is sold on like this. As there’s no soil on the roots, this can only happen during the dormant season ie the winter. Main advantages over containerised roses is the cost, generally speaking they are much cheaper to plant this way, other advantage is you can buy a wider range of roses bareroot as it is more cost effective for the growers to grow small amounts of some varieties. It is also felt that bareroot Plants also can establish better as the root system isn’t trained into a pot and will push out into the surrounding soil much better.
Whatever the reason you wish to choose, it is a great time to order and plant bareroot roses and hopefully my simple method will help you to get the best start for them if you are trying it for the first time
And that is all there is to it, nice and simple. If you would like further advice, please feel free to ask away
Well well well welcome November! With its gun powder and plot! I love this time of year, to the non gardener, it seems the the start of the end of the gardening year, to the gardeners, they know it’s the start of next years display, with bulbs being planted, plants divided, seeds being sourced and sown and evergreens shaped. It’s these things that shaping my six on Saturdays for the next few weeks.
I hope you enjoyed my 6 on Saturday from both mine and a clients garden. If you did please checkout other people’s 6 on the memes founder website https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/ I love seeing other people’s plants and what’s happening in their gardens. Why not give it ago yourself next week and give me a shout so I can take a look
As autumn appears, so do so many other Horticultural delights, brought to us by the change in the season, the plants start to turn wonderful shades and nature’s bounty of fruits and seeds start to ripen and it is only right that the my weekly feature of Plant of the week tries to feature all sides of autumn so this week, we have a very unusual shrub that has some stunning seed pods for us to admire
Decaisnea fargessii is sometimes better known as dead mans fingers, blue sausage plant and blue bean plant. This name comes from the dark blue long finger like seed cases that hold a mushy sweet flavoured flesh and of course the seeds themselves. The flesh inside the pods is supposed to taste of watermelon and is a valued food source in the Plants native area, western China by the indigenous Lepcha people. One word of warning, while the mush it’s self is edible, the black 1cm wide seeds are slightly toxic so avoid eating those at any cost!
It was discovered by Abbé Farges growing in western China, in around 1895. It was named after the French botanist Joseph Decaisne and also after Abbe Farges.It can be found growing in damp woodlands and in damp areas in mountain ravines, normally in areas 900-3600ms above sea level. It can make a large shrub up to 6m tall and 4m wide but normally it is a lot smaller than this, with most groups of plants I have seen around the 3m mark after many years of growing. It is pretty happy in most soils from alkaline to acidic as long as the soil doesn’t dry out, this is the thing the plant hates more than anything else is to dry out. It does prefer a semi shady spot in the garden, it will grow in full sun but the leaves do suffer a little sun scorch. It is pretty pest and disease free. The leaves are pretty impressive as well being pinnate and up to nearly a metre in length. They do change to a yellowly colour in the autumn as well, so you do get some autumn colour appearing. The flowers themselves are not too easy to spot being a greenish colour and born in May. It does have both male and female flowers on the same plant, although it’s not always necessary, it is better to have a couple of plants in your garden and they will fruit much better if there is. Pruning wise, it doesn’t need any real pruning to help make it fruit better, just a bit of shaping pruning to keep in in check if it’s growing to big. I would try and reduce the long walking stick like stems down to a side branch if possible to keep the shape, ideally in late winter while the plant is dormant. Propagation is easy, just sow the seeds into a cold frame in November, about 25mm deep and they should germinate in the spring.
If you don’t want to grow one yourself, they are offered by a few nurseries with Burncoose of Southdown again being one of my favourites
Can be seen in places like Sir Harold Hillier gardens, RHS Wisley or Kew Gardens
Pruning roses always seem to have a mist of confusion around them, no matter where I go, who I talk too or indeed listen too, roses are one plant that leaves them confused when it comes to pruning. What to prune, when to prune, taking too much off, not taking enough off. It’s no wonder really with so much Conflicting advice around in books, the internet, magazines and on telly. Hopefully over the next couple of years, I will go through my own methods of pruning and hopefully explain how I get the best from the roses I look after and hopefully make it a little clearer!
To prune any plant no matter what it is, you have to know not only what it is, how it flowers and grows but also what you want from it. Now the first two I can help with but the 3rd is down to you to decide. First of all what it is the difference between rambling and climbing roses, this is the hardest part for most people, so many times I get asked what is the difference between a rambler and a climber. A climbing rose is basically a shrub or bush rose that grows too big to be grown without any support, as a shrub or bush rose it needs a framework of wood 2+years old in the plant to allow it to flower the best. While a rambler is the true climber, it uses long growths to scrabble over anything it’s path whether it’s a tree, building, rock face or even the ground. These new growths can be up to 25ft in one year depending on the variety grown. These new stems are the best for producing flowers the following year, i.e. Wood that’s 1 year old at time of flowering. The 2nd year old wood tends to produce smaller flowers on the growths, but also produces new longer stems further from the base which maybe too long to use on a frame or a structure. These long and mainly flexible current growing stems makes them ideal for wrapping around features like poles, ropes and arches. This also encourages the rose to flower from the bottom to the top. There are 2 types of ramblers, the repeat flowering and the once flowering. It is the once flowering ones we are looking at during this blog. Again once flowering rambling can be divided up into 2 types, those who produce hips and those that don’t. Pruning is the same for both, just the hip forming ones can be done in February while the none hip forms can be done now or once they have flowered. Reason being that all the flowering wood is removed to encourage these new growths to grow even more. This is because with removing the flowered wood, it puts more effort and energy into the new wood and this will grow even more after pruning. That said a weekly feed of liquid seaweed and a handful of vitax Q4 after pruning will help it to grow even more. I hope the picture guide will help explain it even more
Really they are that easy, just a case of removing the old flowered wood and tie in the new stems, they are really as simple as that. I tend to use just my silky pruning saw, my trust Tobisho SR1 secateurs to prune and nutscene 3ply twine to tie in.
I hope you enjoyed the blog and found it useful!
My old Blogs
Talk on pruning and underplanting rosesFebruary 19, 2018 at 7:00 pm – 8:00 pmHighworth Community CentrenThe Dormers, Swindon, SN6, England
Talk on roses of Mottisfont for West Parley Gardening clubFebruary 27, 2018 at 7:00 pm – 8:00 pmWest Parley Memorial Halln275 Christchurch Road, Ferndown, BH22 8SQ, England
Talk underplanting rosesFebruary 28, 2018 at 7:00 pm – 8:00 pmThruxton village hall