Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cutting, tidying & a 10th anniversary

At this time of year I'm always playing catch-up with my gardening chores as there's just so much to to. I was desperate to get all the pruning done on shrubs and trees before the sap started to rise and my hands are really sore from all the chopping, sawing and pulling which is not good for arthritic hands. Ouch!

I did, however, enjoy taking some photos whilst snipping:

The colourful stems of these dogwoods need to be cut back hard each Spring to encourage them to produce their brightly coloured new growth which gleam throughout the winter months. The stems you see in this next photo have all grown since I pruned them last March. It's a procedure known as 'stooling' whereby the stems are cut back to within 6" of the ground each year. It is suitable for the more vigourous dogwoods but not for  Cornus 'Midwinter fire' which you can just see peeping through the stems of the red one. That requires a much gentler pruning regime and I haven't pruned it at all this year.



I grow lots of different Buddleias and I delay pruning some of them to spread the flowering season so that there's still lots of lovely nectar left for the butterflies and insects well into the autumn. As this part of the garden get battered by strong winds, I'd already reduced the height of this one by 1/3 in Autumn to reduce wind-rock which can disturb the roots.

It doesn't matter that they are already sprouting leaves, which often happens in a mild spell, as a good hard pruning encourages the stems to produce bigger flowers.

I took a moment to admire the beautiful bark.

I took this one down to a framework of about 15".

One of the benefits of all this pruning is that you get lots of woody sticks you can use to prop up plants in the borders instead of using bamboo canes (as long as the stems aren't bendy they are ideal). Here's my selection of brightly coloured stems together with 2 brown ones which look like small trees but are in fact the stems of cardoons which you can see here to the right of the gazebo as you look at it.

Of course, being immersed in the garden I spotted loads of weeds, some of which required eviction immediately before they set seeds and wreaked havoc amongst the beds. 

May I present public enemy number 1 - bittercress (aka Cardamine hirsuta):

Oh but look at its pretty little leaves and the sweet white flowers I hear you cry. Well, look a bit closer and you'll see 2 brown seedpods forming amongst the flowers. If allowed to ripen, which they do in the blink of an eye, they will scatter themselves far and wide whenever something brushes against them. When ripe, even the slightest touch sends them flying all over the place and they will grow absolutely anywhere!

It's flourished this Winter because the damp conditions suit it perfectly and it's all over the gravel drive as well as the flowerbeds.

Now is also a good time to get rid of the old growth that's been left on plants over winter. Here you can see the lovely fresh green chives peeping through.

It's really easy to pull out the dead stems and I leave them on the flowerbed so that the birds can use them as nesting material. What's left will then go onto the compost heap.

It's a good idea to try and get some of the dead growth out of ornamental grasses such as this Festuca Glauca 'Elijah Blue' before the new growth comes through.

I used my fingers as a comb to remove as much as possible. You can't get it all out but it makes it look much neater.

10th Anniversary

On Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of mum's death, I had a conference call with several people about join dementia research (JDR) in which I had to think and talk about dementia. I really didn't want to take part on that day but I'm glad I did because it made me realise how far things have come since I joined up with ARUK. Things have moved on so much and we talk more openly about dementia.

There were a few Lay Champions on the call and we all spoke about what we'd been doing to promote JDR and everyone had done a great job. I've been to local villages leaving leaflets in doctors' surgeries, sending out my usual newsletter to everyone who's sponsored me, spoken about it whenever I get an opportunity plus visited all the Nursing Homes with EMI Units (for the elderly mentally infirm - I HATE that acronym) in a town nearby. 

What I didn't share with everyone was that I missed out one EMI unit because I just couldn't face going inside. It was the one where mum spent the last few months of her life. I couldn't even drive my car into the car park as I felt a tightness in my chest and the tears welling up so I sat outside in the road trying to compose myself then headed for home. I was shocked that my emotions were still so raw after all this time.

RIP mum.

Another thing I've been thinking about is how our language relating to dementia has changed. By that I mean they way we describe people living with dementia and the words we use. This short video by the Dementia Action Alliance is really thought-provoking and well worth a look.

I have another marathon this weekend and I'm hoping the weather forecast is wrong because at the moment they are predicting wind and rain!



I also have a dogwood. I had no idea it had to be pruned down each Spring. Thank you for the instructions. I really appreciated it.

Susie Hewer said...

Please check which variety of dogwood you have LOVE AND XXXX. Have a look at for more details.