Rockvale Stone & Garden

The odd heavy frost last week – even floored Winter Roses – but they soon bounced back with a mild day following.
Frozen ground makes it impossible to work in soil until later in the day, so morning garden design is what I concentrate on for clients wanting ideas in place for Spring planting. It’s time to think about Spring and what you would like happening in your garden. I have been dividing, shifting and planting Delphiniums, Dahlias, day Lillies and clumping perennials into sunnier positions away from trees casting Summer shade. My long and very wide herbaceous borders have had the round headed Laurel trees which were growing up the length of each border cut out, allowing me now to fill each border with Spring and Summer colour. Dahlias, Peony Roses and Cosmos fill gaps well and Lupins, Delphiniums, Foxgloves, Hollyhocks and Mignonette give wonderful vertical interest when grouped in wide borders. If something works well in a garden bed, why not fill with drifts of the same plant to make a colourful impact- this way of planting fills space allowing no room for weeds. Use same shade Roses, Hydrangeas, Dahlias, Daisies, Geraniums and Poppies. Spring bulbs planted this way always give the best show, rather than different varieties planted together.
A few more Hydrangeas have been pruned here and cuttings taken from the hardened stems that had flowered. A shaded moist area is best for bedding these down and hopefully roots will grow to feed the buds.
Old wood can be cut out of Wigelia and Spirea bushes – you can tell which branches they are, because the wood looks old and spent compared to the new fresh wood. Prickly Berberis can be trimmed top and sides, Budleias should be cut well down to encourage soft silver branching and Catmint can now have all old growth clipped off.
Almost finished pruning Roses here – only the Flower Carpet and Fairy Roses to go. Both these varieties bush up with small non hard wood branching – large bushes can be trimmed with a hedge trimmer. If newly planted, prune back with secateurs to hard wood at an outward facing bud. Feeding and spraying Roses is next. Copper oxychloride and winter oil can be mixed and applied together – the oil helps the copper to stick. Copper also helps protect new growth from frosts that occur in Spring. Feed with Rose food, blood and bone or old stable manure.
Vegetable gardens are enjoying frosts breaking down the soil- time for sowing seeds to germinate in a warm place to be ready for planting out in a warm Spring garden and seed potatoes can be sprouting in a dark dry place.
Fruit Trees are still available in Garden Centres. I mentioned dwarf Peach and Nectarine trees for the small garden last week and will mention Ballerina Apples this week. A very slim non branching variety of Apple tree with Medium to large Crisp, juicy, nice eating fruit. Hight 3-4m by 30cm wide, perfect for adding height in a small garden. A dressing of potash now around fruit trees and fruiting bushes will assist with fruiting
Still time to get Grapes pruned before sap rises. To prune a fruiting leader, remove all new long growth on the vine other than the fruiting leader. On the leaders, prune each new side growth back to the second bud. These fruiting buds should be a hand space apart to ensure adequate sized fruit – this means removing some of the new bud growth along the top of the leader and all of the new bud growth growing underneath. Some of these new budding top growths will throw two lots of bud branch. Remove the least stronger one, leaving only one lot of double buds to produce fruit.
Birds are hungry now and beginning to nest. With the help of Poppy and Maggie (Grandies), we melted dripping and stirred in wild bird seed. While it was firming, it was pressed into three balls. The Girls climbed trees and pushed them into v branches for the birds to tuck into and Scruff the dog to sniff from below – in the hope of some falling his way after he’s had his share of the chook scraps and cat’s food – very sneaky our now slightly chubby Scruff!
Cheers, Linda.

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