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.

There is nothing so wonderful as the feeling you get from spending time gardening when the sun is shining.

Ok, this weekend the sun was focused on Sunday, but at least it was dry all weekend. After you have done the work, you get a warm feeling from looking at the improvements you have made in the garden. Today, it was still light enough that when I had finished everything I had to do, I was able to rest for a few minutes and soak up all that I had achieved.

All my roses are now pruned. In the past, I have struggled with the two roses over the pergola. It is nice to have different climbers flowering at different times, but the downside is that not all of them should be pruned at the same time. The buds on my clematis armandii are full and soon it will burst into flower, but that means I have to be really careful where it is intertwined with the roses.

Fences are very useful for training climbing roses

 I love pruning as it brings order out of chaos.  One example of this is the climbing rose that I train along the fence.  First, I remove the shoots that were along the fence last year and then, I choose the longest new growth to bring down to cover the fence panel.  This is a really good way to train climbing roses as not only are the flowers closer to one’s eye line, but also the horizontal stems produce more growth and therefore flowers.  I have staples placed approptiately on the fence posts and tie the stems to them with plastic twine.  I usually use green garden twine, but prefer the plastic for this job as it seems to have more “give” as the plant grows.  The last job is to prune out the stems that aren’t long enough to be useful. 

Next, I moved onto my shrubs.  I want to keep them at a size that is suitable for my garden and so I have decided that the best height for them is what I can reach standing on my step ladder.  I can reach most of what I need to with my telescopic loppers, but for the shoots at the back of the shrub, I have to get out my very long tree pruner that I usually use for the wisteria.

I decided to leave the bay for a while since I has seen a blackbird building her nest in it, so the last shrub to be pruned this weekend was the dogwood.  I obviously left a few stems on last year that I shouldn’t have as some of them were rather too large for my loppers.  But, eventually I managed to prune them all out.

Then for the last job of the day, the shredding.  I was a little concerned that I had too much to fit into my garden waste bags.  Certainly without the shredder, I would have had to make a few trips to the tip, but it handled it all and now I just have to wait until Wednesday when they are emptied.

All in all, a lovely weekend in the garden and a warm feeling about what I had accomplished, but best of all was the serotonin boost.

It was a beautiful day today, so at lunchtime I decided to get started on my spring pruning.  Thirty minutes later, three clematis and a climbing rose and been pruned and I had had a lovely dose of sunshine :).

It is always hard to cut back the clematis since it seems wrong to remove all those green shoots higher up the plant.  But this is the way to produce the strongest plant and the most buds for this year – so I do it.

Now that the working day is over and with it the sun has dropped below the roofs of the surrounding houses, it is now time to go out back to the garage and put the trimmings through the shredder, one job that can be done with the help of electric light.  

I know that I have trained the dogs to stay outside the garage, but it never ceases to amaze me that they do so, without any command what so ever.  They stood there tonight on the threshold, knowing they shouldn’t cross it –  them in the dark and me in the light. 

Only another three weeks to go before the hour changes :).