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Mid-winter blues

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Sadly, being out of action for two weeks due to sickness has led to total neglect of my garden.

This is something that happens in most gardens during winter, especially during July, when we see little end of it in sight.

The feature of my garden is a bed of standard ‘Elina’ roses, as they are such a highlight when the depth of winter arrives.

Elina is a beautiful cream hybrid tea rose, which bears large, full blooms, backdropped by a fence covered in climbers. Pity it is too early to prune the climbers, which shouldn’t be touched until after the spring/summer flush, if they need pruning at all.

I must admit this winter they are lifeless, almost dead with not much foliage remaining until the new spring shoots appear.

It is tempting to prune roses early in winter, but it will create a stronger plant if they are allowed to do go dormant, which, looking at mine now, they are certainly at that stage.

Rose pruning is an art, perfected by watching experienced gardeners, or simply by trial and error.

Firstly, remove any deadwood from the plant, bagging any diseased leaves for the bin, then cut back at least one-third of the growth, leaving strong stems to bear new growth.

It is wise to keep any strong healthy growth while removing spindly shoots. Prune 6mm above a new bud, cutting cleanly on the same angle, cleaning up the rose as you go.

An important job after pruning is to spray with lime sulphur, then feed with a full bucketful of poultry manure (not pelleted), followed three weeks later by a handful of rose food.

Floribunda, hybrid teas (bush roses) and standard roses should all be pruned now, that is unless you live in a frost prone are, then it is advisable to wait until August or when the frosts have finished.

My hint for pruning standards, that is a rose, grafted on a tall stem, is when pruning to keep in mind the shape and size of a soccer ball.

The application of poultry manure doesn’t apply to roses grown in pots. These should be fed with Sudden Impact.

After the winter prune and feeding, follow up each month with another product, as roses are heavy feeders. For example, if we have had heavy rain, apply dolomite, then next month it could be sulphate of potash to encourage stronger, larger flowers, then next month maybe a handful of blood and bone.

Newly planted roses shouldn’t be fed for several months as fertiliser can burn the new roots – a slow-release such as Sudden Impact is ideal.

This week

  • Winter grass is overtaking lawns damaged in summer – it appears as fine green tufts, it should be sprayed with a winter grass killer.
  • There is still time to plant pansies and primula for a pretty spring garden.
  • Time to pot up hippeastrum bulbs which look great in a large shallow bowl.
  • Dissolve a tablespoon of sulphate of ammonia in water and apply around for parsley for instant greening.

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