It’s very hard to get up the enthusiasm to go outside in the garden.
I don’t mind the cold too much, but I really hate wind as it makes everything so much harder. Rain is also not very helpful as it means standing on the soil is quite a problem. Ideally, if you need to be on the beds when the soil is very wet, you should stand on something which spreads your weight such as a plank of wood; this reduces the damage you do to the structure of the soil.
Tamsin, my occasional gardener, tells me that, when she was training, she learned that pruning roses was one of the few tasks that could be done in very cold frosty weather when many other tasks are difficult or impossible. I had always understood that the weather should be milder for rose pruning so this is a task I am tackling (with help from my better half) now which means it won’t be hanging over us later in the season. Always remember the three Ds: dead, diseased and damaged. If you take care of all the stems which fit into these categories often there isn’t much more to do. I aim for an open bowl shape with well-spaced stems cut to an outward facing bud. You should prune less hard those very vigorous varieties in order to help keep them smaller; it always goes against instinct to do this, but hard pruning to a very low size produces more growth than gentle tipping of stems. If you have a plant which has a very strong growing stem and a weaker shorter stem, prune the short stem even shorter and just take a little off the strong stem and new growth should be more evenly balanced.
Now is a good time to move roses or plant bare-rooted new roses. Roses should be properly dormant before they can be moved or, as I have found to my cost, the rootstock onto which the top growth is grafted will tend to send up shoots from damaged roots. These shoots will be unlike the variety you planted and will be vigorous, with more, smaller leaflets and, if allowed to flower, will have flowers like wild roses. Roses consist of the top growth which is 'budded' onto the rootstock which is tougher and establishes more quickly than the desired variety would do. Roses behave differently to other grafted plants as the union of the two parts should be planted well under the surface to avoid suckering from the rootstock. With other grafted plants, for example fruit trees, it is important to keep the graft well clear of the soil again to avoid suckering of the rootstock. I did not know this when I planted most of the roses in our garden...
Other jobs we have yet to complete include pruning the native hedge along the side of the back garden which needs to be done before it starts into growth and birds start to nest. Native hedging can be bought cheaply as very small plants which establish very quickly if kept well-watered in the early stages. We love this hedge which provides food and shelter for birds, although we have learned painfully that it would have been better to exclude blackthorn, which has vicious spines and suckers badly. I also would have excluded Cornus in the part behind the flower bed as its suckers are threatening to take over the entire bed. I never stop learning and, sadly, sometimes I forget my own lessons.
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