December 2020. Out of Lockdown Number 2. Greenery and greyery assembled, ready for online Christmas wreath concoctions

Someone’s been practising

Not me

I’ve just been practising curling up. It’s a skill.

Plant ident.

Hebe rakaiensis

An invaluable low-growing evergreen shrub which can be kept tightly clipped into soft, dome-shaped mounds. Small glossy leaves. Hardy. Looks Japanese, but will fit easily into any garden scheme, offering structure and pattern. A good alternative to Buxus. Good on most soils, including chalk and easy from cuttings.

Sarcococca var chinensis

Christmas Box. An easy, small evergreen which does well in shade. Produces small, fragrant, white flowers in the winter months which scent the air wonderfully, and attract early pollinators. Glossy evergreen leaves are reminiscent of those of Box. They are good, hardy shrubs which flourish in urban environments, and cope with pollution and dry shade. Good in the border and as a low informal hedge. Around 1 m tall. This variety has red berries.

Sarcococca confusa

This is a larger variety, and can grow to 4 m. Very free-flowering, and produces shiny black berries. Lovely to have a couple of Sarcococcas growing near a front or back door so that you can enjoy their perfume as you drift in and out. Another very desirable variety is S. hookeriana var. digyna ‘Purple Stem’. Upright and compact, its young stems are purple/pink, as are the flowers. The foliage of these shrubs is useful for creative types to use in Christmas wreaths.

Grevillea rosmarinifolia

Originating in Australia, this hardy, evergreen shrub has a lax, spreading habit, growing to around 1 – 2m. Its dark green, needle-shaped leaves are (unsurprisingly, given its name) similar to those of the herb Rosemary, but decidedly more prickly. Deep crimson flowers are produced over a long period, from winter through to late summer; in some sheltered sites it can actually flower the whole year round. Little pruning needed, but branches can be cut in order to shape and maintain a good framework. Neutral to acid soil; likes full sun.

Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteovariegata’

An excellent evergreen, variegated shrub, highly rated at Garden House. Magnificent shape and beautiful variegation – even variegatophobes tend to like this one. Dark stems, cream-edged leaves, small scented golden flowers in summer, followed by shiny red berries in the autumn months. Plant in full sun or partial shade – ideally in a fairly sheltered situation – it’s definitely not suitable material for a windbreak. A.G.M.

Jobs for the week

Split houseplants which have become overcrowded

This is a flourishing example of Haemanthus albiflos, the Shaving-Brush plant, and its pot is positively bursting at the seams. Ready to be released into a more spacious living arrangement with fresh compost. New plants from old.

Re-pot the separated plants. Water, Label. Gloat over all your new (free) stock. Plenty to give away too.

Prune Climbing and Rambling Roses

As we enter the season of their dormancy, it’s a good time to look at the shape and spread of these Roses, and some pruning can be started. Climbers will flower on wood made in that current season (growth made in that year), and they generally repeat-flower all summer and on into autumn. Cut out dead and diseased wood and prune old stems back to around two buds. Stems should be tied in different directions to encourage new flowering growth; train as near to horizontal as possible to encourage more lateral flowering shoots to grow. Sometimes you just have to be brave and go for it! Below is a picture of the newly pruned framework of the Climbing Rose, R. Cecile Brunner.

Rosa ‘Compassion’

Another Climber. On the right-hand side quite a lot of pruning has been done. There are still some leggy stems and entangled growth over to the left. Unfinished? Well, yes, but we’re being generous, as we need to leave something for the other groups to do! Hang onto the lovely orange-red hips; they will be fab. in wreaths and table decorations

Look at the size of those hips!

(I’m sure I’ve heard that sentence somewhere before)

Rosa ‘Mermaid’

A beautiful yellow Climbing Rose – untouched at present. Taming is obviously needed. The stems of Climbers tend to be stiffer than those of Ramblers.

Rambling Roses

Are those which do just that. They are the ones that can rollick happily up a tree. Rosa ‘Wedding Day’ is an example, and can get to around 10 metres. Stunning, simple white single flowers appear in clusters in May/June and attractive hips follow in October. The leaves are dark and glossy. Scented.

Ramblers flower on growth made in the season prior to flowering. They are more vigorous than Climbers and the flowers tend to be simpler and smaller – although still borne in profusion. Usually, they only flower once in the season. Their branches tend to be longer and more flexible, and in fact they require only occasional pruning.

When pruning, ensure that tools are clean and sharp. This makes the job of cutting easier and will help to prevent the plant from becoming diseased. Ideally, tools should be disinfected after pruning each plant.

Jobs for the week

Prune Climbers and Ramblers as above.

Make a winter / Christmas wreath

Gather greenery, hips, decorations, lights, gold and silver spray, dried fruit and dried flowers. Get creative!

Complete bulb planting

Add some violas and pansies on the top of pots to keep things interesting whilst the bulbs get busy below. Remember that squirrels may be inclined to investigate…

Squirrel-proofing a-go-go

Nutkin thinks this looks a cinch. We’ll see

Gather dried Allium heads to use in winter displays indoors. They look magical when sprayed white, gold or silver.

Farewell autumn

Welcome winter

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