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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.


National Garden Weeding April 22 2015

Weeds. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow

This Sunday The Garden House are holding an open day as part of the National Gardens Scheme charity. The garden will be open for visitors to nose around and a selection of plants will be on sale as well as plenty of tea and cake.

Weeds. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow

So today we did some weeding. I always find this a bit weird as I think loads of weeds are really pretty and object to digging them up. Anyway Bridge made us identify a range of weeds then we had to go and actually remove them from the beds so I thought it would be fun to make you guess them like we had to (and see if those of us from gardening group can still remember what they were). See which you can identify from these pictures that Bridge gave me. Answers at the bottom and you can leave a comment telling me how many you got right.

1. 

2. 

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

Whilst we were weeding, this little dude came and helped/got in the way by eating some of the dandelions. He's fresh out of hibernation. Kate told everyone that you could deep fry dandelions  I’m not sure if they believed her (NB. You can and I am living proof that they are edible).

Tortoise. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow

Apart from that we pruned the olive tree using a pruning saw which meant taking loads of branches out of the middle leaving it still looking quite full. Whilst doing this I realised that there is a sundial in the garden! It's sort of obvious. 

Olive Tree. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow          Olive tree. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow

Scott and Katie got involved in some topiary:

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

And we pricked out some Californian poppies, Eschscholzia White Linen. These need a bit more delicate handling than usual as they have a taproot (as opposed to a fibrous root). A tap root is the kind of root you get on a dandelion or a carrot, one long root rather than lots of little bits of root. As that’s all it’s got you have to be a bit more careful when transferring these roots than you would be with a fibrous rooted plant.

Poppy White Linen. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow          Poppy White Linen. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow

Oh, and remember that Hypertuva planter we made a few weeks ago? Here it is in action! It’s now a water feature!

Hypertuva. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow

And apparently this is a weed too. It’s Celandine and it’s incredibly pretty. When I get a garden of my own I’m not sure there’ll be room for much else after all the pretty weeds I'm going to leave in.

Celandine. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow

See below for the quiz answers and here is a sneak peek of what you'll be able to see at the open day on Sunday, hope to see lots of you there...

Tulips. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow

Answers:

  1. Hairy bitter cress
  2. Speedwell
  3. Aegopodium podagraria (Ground elder)
  4. Alkanet (part of the borage family)
  5. Dandelion (easy)
  6. Galium aparine (Sticky willy)
  7. Groundsel

 

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