Winter's bane

Winter has a bad habit of pretending to be leaving and then nipping back and slapping you round the back of your head with a snowball.

CUT OFF: Early pruning time for roses.
CUT OFF: Early pruning time for roses.

It makes it really difficult to get done the jobs which are best done at a particular time. So, sticking up a central digit to winter and all it has to offer, I am preparing to get out the secateurs to prune back the stems of rose bushes to a third of last year’s height.

It’s a simple case of cutting the stem just above a leaf joint and collecting all old leaves that show signs of black spot disease. They shouldn’t be allowed to remain on the ground where they can incubate the disease for another year.

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To complete the job and encourage really strong new growth that will carry lots of flowers, it helps to feed each rose bush with a handful of fertiliser – preferably a special rose and shrub plant food or a slow-release flower plant food which gives small amounts of plant food every day for up to six months whenever the soil is warm enough to encourage plant growth.

It encourages excellent flowering results on roses and any other decorative shrub or climber, so it’s also ideal for any fuchsias, ceanothus, clematis, mock orange or wisteria that you want to encourage into full flower.

And while food for thought is the order of the day, take a look around the garden to see what other plants could benefit.

Shrubs such as rhododendron, azalea and camellia, which are termed ‘ericaceous’, appreciate acid soils.

When grown on neutral or limey soils, they need a plant food that contains sequestered iron.

And more food for thought – spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, early tulips, crocus and hyacinths may be producing a fine show of flower colour at this time of the year, but if that’s to continue for following years, the plants need to be fed while they are in leaf.

To get instant energy into the bulb plant, soak the leaves and around the roots with an all-purpose soluble food. A feed every 10 days while the plant is in leaf should ensure the bulbs grow in size and form a decent flower bud for next year.

Go to it – as long as you can get through the snow.