Notes on pruning May 06 2015

Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Today, we all had a go at pruning some shrubs, to be specific, we pruned a Forsythia (you’ll recognise this from the Easter Tree we made last month), a Viburnum and a winter flowering Honeysuckle which is one of the nicest things to have in your garden in the colder months.

Winter flowering honeysuckle. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Pruning is terrifying. There don’t seem to be that many rules around it, as most of it goes on gut feel and aesthetics. But the few rules that do exist really need to be rigidly adhered to. Or else. We’re talking “never-stick-your-head-out-of-a-train-window” level here, because once you’ve made a pruning error there ain’t no bringing it back. The first rule of pruning is #1. Cut cleanly using whichever tool is most suitable for the size of branch (in ascending order of size: secateurs, loppers or a pruning saw). This will protect your shrub/ tree against pests and diseases and leave it looking neat and tidy.

The second rule is #2. Don’t overprune. Jeez, this is a toughie. Experienced gardeners seem to have a knack for this, but it’s frightening because mostly it’s hard to know when to stop. Overpruning can in many cases damage the health of the plant and in the worst of cases, lead to the threat of jail!! A rule of thumb is to prune no more than 1/3 of the foliage. Any more than this can trigger the plant to go into survival mode, creating far more new growth than you would like. It’s often helpful to start cutting back the foliage in the middle to make space for the remaining branches, then you can also cut any branches shooting off sideways at a jaunty angle then any that are crossing over each other too. This will help the plant look nice and give more light to the remaining branches. With every removal you make you should always step back and observe the plant from afar to check how it looks. It’s kind of an art, an art that takes a while to perfect and is very nerve-wracking in the process.

Here’s how the shrub looked at the end:

Winter flowering honeysuckle. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

And the pile of braches we removed!

Winter flowering honeysuckle. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

We took cuttings of the honeysuckle for people to take home. This involved pruning a bit of the top of a new branch just below some nodes, chopping off the bottom leaves and cutting the next level of leaves in half, this helps with water retention of the cutting. As demonstrated by Bridge here:

Winter flowering honeysuckle. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Winter flowering honeysuckle. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

We propagated some grass (Pennisetum Hameln) by simply slicing sections from a clump of it using a sharp knife, then repotting into some gritty soil. Here are some pics of Bridge showing us how to do it. The roots are quite robust. In some of the sections, we had to cut clumps of the roots just to get them to fit into the pot. Apparently this is fine to do.

Pennisetum Hameln. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Pennisetum Hameln. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.          Pennisetum Hameln. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Alongside this, some of us created little wigwams for some pretty climbers.

Climbers. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.          Climbers. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

And we began the process of stewing some comfrey in water. In about a month’s time this will smell horrendous and make an excellent fertiliser for the garden.

Comfrey. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.          Comfrey. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Also, Bridge kept finding loads of things to show us, including this sea kale, which is edible, and hopefully yum:

Sea Kale. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

And the crazy root nodules on this Celandine:

Celandine roots. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

The potatoes needed earthing up. Here’s Richard getting involved, covering them up with mounds of soil to make sure no light gets through to the potatoes growing underground.

Earthing up Potatoes. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Now that the potatoes are coming up, we’re going to register the Garden House crop for the Brighton Mile of Potatoes which is a really cool initiative to highlight how many of us in Brighton & Hove are growing our own spuds. During the World Wars, the Land Army concentrated on growing different crops in different districts. In Brighton, a mile of potatoes was grown through the town. The Green Centre, an environmental project in East Brighton, are aiming to recreate this level of potato-growing activity by  asking growers to register their spuds to be plotted on their fabulous “Potato Map”. If you live in the city, make sure you register yours too and see if together we can achieve a mile.

Finally, we dug up some “weeds”.  Now, if me and Bridge ever fall out, I’m fairly certain it will be about our opposing definitions of what is and isn’t a weed. Today, the bluebells were up for debate. Yep, those gorgeous violet blooms, that flood our woodlands with a carpet of blue and give us the hint that summer is close. Not to mention that they make an excellent choice of head-wear for fairies. Swoon. Sob. I visited Ashdown Forest with some friends at the weekend and walked through some beautiful bluebell woods to Pooh Bridge where we sat and had a picnic. If you have a chance to drive up there this weekend I can’t recommend the trip highly enough. There’s a little shop on Hartfield High Street named Pooh Corner where you can buy what looks like every piece of Winne the Pooh merchandise ever made as well as enjoying a wonderful cream tea (amazing scones).  Anyway some of the bluebells at The Garden House were in the wrong place and besides, there are hundreds of them so I (only slightly) begrudgingly helped dig them up and we separated the constituent parts out for disposal as follows: Bulbs = Garden waste, leaves = compost, flowers = for displaying.

Bl;uebells. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

I got to keep the flowers which are now in a vase in my room, so everything turned out okay in the end. TTFN!

Bluebells. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

P.S. A.A.Milne famously said “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”. Just saying.