Cutting Back for Future Growth
As the weather starts to cool and the sun’s rays are less intense, we can enjoy the last few days of summer sunshine whilst preparing for the 2020 gardening year.
Making the cut
This year started with an exceptionally wet spring interspersed with some early spring sunshine, resulting in lush growth. Next year could be similar so it is worth bearing in mind that new, soft growth is the first to be scorched by the sun and can wilt, this applies to roses too.
So I have been cutting a lot of things back, such as the early flowering shrubs and Perennials. As a result I should have a second flush from Perennials this month and, at the same time, have been able to reshape my shrubs for 2020.
For next year, also think about grouping shrubs together to offer some shade to each of the plants and make for easier grass cutting without shrubs dotted about the garden.
Sue Sargeant, Passionate gardener, novice writer
Dead or Alive?
Some shrubs, particularly those planted this season, just appear to give up, wilt and look dead but don’t discard them without offering a helping hand. It may be that cutting back for growth can save them. Watering every day to see if it perks up can sometimes work. Scrape the bark with your nail to see if the bark is green underneath (a good sign of life). I sometimes gently dig them up, cut back and soak in a bucket of water overnight, then pot up and put in the shade. If it recovers you can plant out in the autumn but keep it well watered for the first year at least.
If a shrub has no sign of life then try to look at some of the reasons for a premature death.
Right Plant, Right Place?
What is the root ball like? If it still resembles the shape of the plant pot and has not made any new roots then it probably wasn’t planted deep enough and had insufficient water. It’s always advisable to tease out some of the roots when planting to encourage them to seek water. You can also insert a small plastic pipe at the side of the root ball when planting and use this to water the roots in the first season. This will prevent roots searching for water near the surface.
Too often we plant before we check to see what a plant really needs to grow and thrive. If you find that the location wasn’t suitable and you want to replace the plant, try another spot which might mean you have to move something else to create a perfect space. We all make mistakes but hopefully our knowledge over time will help us create a sustainable garden.
Sometimes it’s better to buy a larger plant that has a more well-developed root system. Quite often garden centers offer the same shrub in two or three sizes. I would always go for the larger one, it will give you an instant display and the plant is already well established.
My golden rule is to plant before June. There is no doubt that the shrubs and trees I have planted in April/May do much better because the ground is warming up and the levels of rainfall are much higher. Autumn can also be equally good, preferably Oct/Nov before any frosts. June to the end of September are the most risky time to plant shrubs and trees.
Start thinking about planting spring bulbs. Tulips are better planted after a first frost but all other bulbs can be planted in the ground or in pots (stored in a cool, dry place) ready for next season.
September is a perfect time for collecting seeds from Perennials such as Gaura, Nigella (Love in the Mist), Aquilegia, Verbascum and many more. Preferably this should be done on a dry day when the seed heads are dry and brown.
I usually pull up Nigella and dry these on trays in the Greenhouse. They will dry in a couple of days and you can sow direct in spring. Gaura and Aquilegia can be collected and sown fresh in seed trays, then pricked out, potted up and overwintered in a frost proof place, ready to be planted out in spring. Verbascum can be sown direct in spring.
Try to increase the varieties of Perennials by swapping your seeds and plants with friends. We have many donated plants in our garden and when I visit friends I often see my donations doing equally well in theirs. This is a great way to extend your planting themes and is one of the delights of gardening that keep us happy year after year.
First published in the September/October issue of The Local Buzz
Images: Sue Sargeant and Shutterstock