Maintaining a Garden – Climber Plants and Hedges
When maintaining a garden, particularly a neglected garden, there are many factors to bear in mind. Trees and shrubs can quickly lose their attractive shape and look neglected or even out of control (specifically) if they are not cared for and pruned or tidied. However, maintaining a garden can be just a quick once a week task if everything is kept up to date and not forgotten nor neglected.
Wall climbers and trained plants often offer problems and need patience and understanding to bring them under control. Pruning of climber plants should always be done very carefully for it is so easy to remove the growth on which the current year’swould have been borne. It is not good to try to tidy a flowering wall plant by clipping it with shears in spring or winter for this reason. Although it is quite all right to clip ivy, Virginian creeper and other self-clinging climbers.
Generally, the same rule applies to climbers and so-called climbers as to other shrubs: cut one or two important stems instead of taking tiny pieces from all over. You can usually see which is the oldest and least vigorous branch just as it is easy to see which branches are over-crowded. On a wall, a plant cannot so naturally grow its own way to sunlight. It is up to the gardener to space the stems so that each has its own share.
It may be that the climber has become loosened from its supports and it is these which need renewing more than the plant itself. In this case ask yourself if it is wise to go back to the original means of support or whether it would not be better to employ some more modern and/or improved means.
You may not be well acquainted with the climber in question so a general rule may be helpful. Like shrubs, they flower either on the current season’s growth, the new wood, and are generally in bloom from summer to autumn, or, alternatively, they flower on the previous year’s growth, the old wood, and are generally in bloom from early spring until early summer.
Those that flower early in the year on the previous summer’s growth should be pruned immediately after flowering. Others should be pruned at such a time as to give the longest season for growth preparatory to flowering. If you are not sure what climber you have, wait to see it flower and to get it identified. If your climber is grown only for its leaf coverage and not for bloom, it may be pruned back as follows : if deciduous any time from late October until March, if evergreen from late February to early April.
Climber plants which present a tangle of matted thin growth such as clematis, jasmine, honeysuckle, polygonum, can be drastically cut right back and given a chance to begin anew. But it would be unwise to do this to such a lovely and long-lived climber as wisteria or grape vine. The latter need carefuland if you can, it is wise to call in an expert.
Wisterias produce many shoots each year. If these are not required to grow on to occupy wall space they should be cut back, in August, to about twelve inches, making the cut directly above a leaf; remember that the flowers are only produced at the base of the shoots. This climber need not be pruned except if it is necessary to keep it within bounds. If you have to remove a large portion cut it right back to a main stem.
Maintaining a garden hedge – hedges in old gardens often need attention, spreading in width and encroaching on the garden. You can cut them back quite drastically without killing them. It is best to be quite bold and prune one side of the hedge one year, taking the branches back to the centre stems, and the other side the next. Treat the side which gets most sun first. You may be surprised to see how quickly the new growth springs from every part of the old branches. Once this new growth gets going, it can feed the trees while the other side is cut back the same way.
If there are holes in the hedge, take stems from either side and tie them together across the gap. If the gap occurs at the base of the hedge, it is sometimes possible to layer a stem or two thus filling the space.
Old hedges need feeding. Liberally mulch theover the roots with animal manure, compost or any good organic food.
For the neglected garden in general, having decided what to keep in its present home, decide too what must be moved. Most plants, however mature, can be moved if the season and the weather are right. But move them quickly. Prepare their new homes before you lift them. Remember, too that any plant uprooted from its anchorage is suffering a drastic operation, and its growth and development will be checked for a year or two. Be sure that the soil is in good heart so that the plant feeds well.
Often, in old gardens, soil becomes starved. The soil itself is of good texture (indeed often these wasted soils are very easy indeed to work) but its riches have been drawn from it by successive generations of plants, its vitality must be restored. Humus is the only ingredient that will restore maximum growing powers to any soil.