I waited a few days to do my major wisteria prune this year and I am really glad I did so.  We had arranged to have solar panels fitted and when I saw the scaffolding going up, I realised that this would be a really easy way of doing the pruning.  There would be no need to keep repositioning the ladder (which is not an easy task) – I could reach the whole of my wisteria from the first layer of the scaffolding.

Imagine my sadness when the workmen went up a level and, having established a platform for the solar guys, removed the boards at the level I needed for my pruning.  Fortunately, they had to come back the next day and so offered to bring some more boards for me :).

Scaffolding makes Wisteria pruning very easy

I have never pruned the wisteria so easily.  The whole job was done in two 30 min sessions.  There was a slight downside though –  I suffer from vertigo sometimes and getting on the ladder to come down was not an easy thing to do!

There were only two shoots that had managed to get themselves so embedded in the house that they did not come away easily.  Fortunately, there was a workman on the upper level who quickly solved my problem.

Next year, I will definitely be looking into the cost of putting up scaffolding to do the job again.

Last winter certainly took its toll on Phormiums.  I have a large one in the front of the house, which by this spring was certainly looking the worse for wear.

I was getting ready to send it to the great garden in the sky, when a friend recommended a tool to tidy it up.  I have previously used secateurs to tidy New Zealnad flaxes, but they are not the ideal tool for this job.  They are meant for woody material and really don’t cope well with the sinewy leaves of a phormium. 

The tool she recommended was Jakoti shears, so I decided to invest in a pair.  Within a couple of days my new shears arrived in the post and I set to tidying the plant.  What a wonderful job they did too.  Secateurs had made me feel that I was fighting the plant, but these shears just sliced through the old dead and dying leaves like butter.  They are very sharp, so you have to be careful not to cut yourself. 

So, I now have a lovely tidy phormium and I will never again dread having to give one a serious haircut.

As winter approaches, thoughts move to tidying up in the garden.  Thankfully, the garden hasn’t yet totally succumbed to the weather.  The problem is that I am not allowed to do anything that would aggravate my hernia.  Lifting and gardening are out of the question at the moment.  Hopefully I should have an operation in a couple of weeks and then I can get back to normal, but for now I can’t even sweep the paths.

So, my thoughts must turn to plans for the garden.  I have a beautiful willow that I have always planned to pollard.  Pollarding is a very useful technique for keeping trees of a size suitable for their surroundings.  Tree roots will only grow as large as the canopy that they need to support, so there will be less chance of the roots having any impact on surrounding buildings.  An additional benefit from my perspective is that after a few years of being pollarded, the tree trunk takes on additional character even when it is not in leaf.  The downside may be that there is not very much leaf next year – we will have to wait and see how the tree takes to the process.

The trouble is that there are a couple fairly substantial branches that leave the main trunk a little too low and I am not sure which ones should be totally removed and where to start the pollarding.  While I am happy to do the actual work myself, my current plan is to find a tree surgeon who will give me the advice (for a fee of course) without necessarily having the job of doing the work.

For those of you who have wisteria, the winter prune should be done when the plant is dormant.  I try to do the job on 1 Jan or as close to that date as the weather conditions and work commitments allow.  I plan to video the process this year so that you can see where to prune and how much neater the plant looks when this year’s growth has been tidied up.  The added benefit of the winter pruning is that you will get even more flowers come the spring.

The roses are another group of plants that you need to think about pruning.  This is a good time to tidy up young roses that have not yet established a good root system.  I leave the main pruning until the spring. but where the plant has put on a lot of top growth, I shorten branches to half to two thirds  of their  height to reduce the impact of winter winds loosening them in the soil.

The rest of my shrubs get their hair cut in the spring when I can see the impact of the winter on them.  It seems a little non-productive to remove shoots that may survive the winter well and leave ones that might perish.  That said, I am very tempted to at least reduce the height of the cotinus that I have in front of the kitchen window.  I love the way it acts as a vegetative curtain, far enough from the window to let in light, but still screening us from neighbours.  However it is a little disconcerting when the plant reaches the height of the bedroom window.