The weather may well feel mildly inclement as February begins but temperatures have, so far, been quite mild and that is causing some unusual reactions in to the macro and micro of the Irish landscape. Weather aside, there is much to be done and the plant world, with or without rainfall waits for no [wo]man.
Shrubs and Pruning
I generally try to give my plants and trees some form of a hair cut at least once a year. Sometimes just to tidy them up, other times just to give them a good kick up the ar5e. But like [or not at all like] a Mom cutting a childs fringe for the first time, when pruning always remember:
- select diseased or damaged wood to be removed first
- once you cut, you can’t stick branches back on
- garden books are not doctors, just guides. Use your eyes ~ there was a reason why I was always encouraged to talk to my plants individually as a nipper
- Always ensure your tools are razor sharp and clean
The science behind is quite smart in getting the plants hormones going. My advice – beware of just trimming to tidy. Although we may prefer it, for the plant it’s far better to cut it back.
Tree and Hedge Planting
If your hedge got whopped out of existence over the last two seasons – now is also tree and hedge planting season. Do not even dream of going at it when the weather gets good – horticulturally – that can’t and won’t happen ~ that is unless you have a larger bag of cash to spend. There is a window. Whilst it is open ~ use it and work with the seasons !
Again behind the plant science – the wooden plants are in their dormant state and generally will remain so long as temperatures remain below that 12 – 14 celsius range. Once they pop above that the clock is ticking and they should really have been replanted within that time frame.
I threw in my image of Highbury stadium for the craic… Back to it! My lawn is over used and over run by human pedestrian traffic and hens and dogs…. It is however a family garden and is there to be used. In sports, a surface or pitch is generally spiked for aeration, filled with sand to improve drainage, over-seeded and fertilised.
I won’t be driving a tractor across mine but I will use a garden fork instead and do something extremely similar. And before you are offered a bag of 10-10-20 free gratis – modern technology applies and fertilisers have come a long way. Slow release fertilisers act when temperatures go above the 12-14 celsius range ie. when the [grass] plant is growing and aren’t leached through the soil when a hard rain falls. That aside, lawns have taken an absolute battering of the last few seasons and
need deserve that little tlc.
As you can see above [left] my Lime trees, Tilia cordata ‘Greenspire’ are well into bud burst and the new stunning red stem growth is a real fresh welcome to the garden. You can see where crown raising [removal of lower branches] took place last year and albeit in a more minor format is now required again. The rest of my trees [Sorbus, Betula jacqumontii, Caprinus betula to name a few] will however need a little of my lopping shears as versus the secateurs.
On the right is the silhouette of the Coryllus avellana ‘Contorta’, a real welcome addition to any garden. But whilst the growth should all be ‘contorted’ – if you look closely some stems are straight and upright and these, the plant attempts to revert back to its forefathers and become an ordinary hazel once again, should be removed and cut to the butt.
Colour For your Garden ?
Outside of the main tasks noted above, my daffodils are on the rise and I have even seen some in flower which is slightly unusual. My hyancinths, bar one [there's always one! ], are doing as well outside as they are inside.
Bulbs aside, Mahonia in flower, Laurus nobilis hedge in fruit, polyanthus in flower and cotoneaster in fruit…. all in January. And these are just 4 very varying examples I passed in my garden. It might just make one think, why don’t I get some of that in mine. I guess I never understood that the garden looks so bare in winter cliché. I know I asked why a lot as a child, but as a horticulturist, in this case it’s more a case of Ich verstehe nicht. Colour, fruit, flower, birds…. it is phenomenal the return you get when you give a little. The answer plant some colour for the entire year round.
The smart gardeners make it look so easy. There’s a reason for this. Planning and planning. Planning aside, my rhubarb [pictured above] has never been forced in its life. And never will ~ see picture above left. My wild garlic is simply brilliant but it can be so wild, so at your own peril [or not] if you choose to plant some. My fruit trees – are for now dormant so it’s a great time to prune, clip and train [see above]. My broad beans, onions and garlic planted last season have all my troughs full, so I’m a little stuck for space [surprised ? January! ] I did however find a space to sow some mammoth onions.
Outside of that… January has been a busy bee month and February is really on course to be pretty much more of the same. Part of the reason may be down to two Mount Everest type winters or maybe just the mild temperatures we’re having now. Either or I do know, so long as nature is around, there is beauty literally everywhere.
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