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Eats, Shoots and Leaves

(Veg, plants and shrubs)


Now that the leaves have fallen from my taller shrubs I can see, and get to, the rambling rose at the back of the border. Now, when growth has been halted, is a good time to tidy up rambling roses and ensure you get a good display of flowers next year.


The trick is to tie back the main arching branches so that they lay horizontally, or as near to this as possible. This then encourages lateral shoots to grow vertically from these, and it is these lateral shoots that will produce next year’s flowers. At the same time you can prune to about 6 inches any unwanted branches, especially if it looks like there are too many, shorten others if they are getting out of hand, and remove any weak or diseased growth.


For a gardener especially, the recent frosts have been most welcome. Frost kills off and blackens any residual summer herbaceous growth so that plants like dahlia can be cut right back and the cuttings placed on the compost heap. I found it safe to leave dahlias to overwinter in the ground, reducing the risk of loss even further by a covering of mulch.

Frost, it has been said, also improves the flavour of sprouts (in time for Christmas) and parsnip. I can certainly vouch for the parsnips and the ones I dug up recently have a greatly improved flavour - and have grown well this year. Speaking of digging, if you have dug over your plot this autumn, frost will help break down the clods and deliver a finer tilth in the Spring.


Jobs for December

  • Rake up fallen leaves so that they do not trap diseases or damage lawns. Bag the leaves for next year's leaf mould or place on the compost heap.

  • Plant the last of your tulip bulbs, if you haven't already, it'll soon be too late.

  • Plant dry root shrubs and fruit trees so that they can establish early root growth.

  • Begin pruning apple and pear trees, leave varieties grown for flower until spring.

  • Plant rhubarb crowns, and divide established plants.

  • Plant bare root raspberry and gooseberry bushes from now until March.         



Issue 397

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