Page 22 - Forest Row Local October Edition
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22 October 2020 • Forest Row Local
Autumn Pruning and Tidying
Autumn is making herself felt in the garden now, morning mists, dew and the first early leaves falling. Now is the time to find our relation to this mood, working alongside nature with sensitivity to the changes that are taking place in our garden and in us. In my last article
I wrote of the mood of the Autumn Equinox as being a transition from outer nature to inner nature, as
the time when we move to the
root energy of rest and renewal. However, although it is tempting to pick up our secateurs and cut back anything and everything that looks dead or dying in the hope that we can keep order and somehow ‘get everything ready for the winter’; I would suggest that nature is asking us not to hurry this process, after all - Autumn has 3 months. The mood of this time could be summed up as ‘ gently allowing nature to dissolve away and to accompany that inwardly’. With this thought in mind I can offer a few pointers regarding pruning and tidying from my own experience.
Most shrub pruning takes place in Spring or early Summer but there are some shrubs that benefit from Autumn pruning. Tender herbs such as lavender, thyme, rosemary are best pruned now: remove the flower heads and anything untidy, but if you want to cut harder it is best to wait until Spring. Magnolias, Lilacs and Philadelphus can be pruned before any frosts come: they generally require little pruning unless they are becoming too large, where simple removal of unwanted stems can happen. Shrub fuschias
can be reduced by a third to prevent wind damage. Hedges are best pruned in Autumn, I try to prune mine as late as possible, when there is no further growth happening, leaving them looking neat until Spring.
Both climbing roses and shrub roses can be pruned in Autumn. Climbers are still supple from the summer so thy can be trained and bent more easily than in the Spring. After removing any dead or dying stems, look for strong young growths coming from the lower parts of the plant; if there are then remove one or two of the oldest branches, and replace them with these new growths. Shrub roses and hybrid teas etc. are happiest when pruned in March just before the new growth starts, but it is often a good idea to carry out some Autumn pruning, which consists of removing dead and dying stems, and then reducing the plant by about a third, mainly to obviate wind damage that can occur during the winter.
Herbaceous perennials
The television presenter Monty Don once gave some good advice regarding herbaceous perennial pruning in Autumn/Winter which has stayed with me over the years and makes great sense. It was simple: ‘when the plant no longer looks beautiful, it is time to prune it.’ If the plant has finished flowering but the seed heads are still beautiful then why not leave it? If the grasses have gone brown but still catch the frost leave them too; if the teasels provide seeds for the birds, the same. What’s great about this if this lies in the subjectivity which it demands, the pruning response is artistic and not scientific! When we feel the plant is no longer beautiful it is time to prune it: it is our personal choice,
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