Gardening Tips - pruning helps curtail the effects of frost
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 October 2013
Anthony Bradley, garden supervisor at Brodsworth Hall and Gardens takes us through November's must-do list
November is a really busy time for the keen gardener and our garden team of six full time gardeners and 12 volunteers here at Brodsworth Hall in South Yorkshire are really put to the test. There is so much to do during this month in preparation for the winter that you’ll need to ensure you have your woolly hat and socks ready to get out there at every opportunity. The biggest challenge around this time of year is frost. A garden needs a few good short bursts of frost to shock plants into their dormant phase as this is the time when we want them to stop growing and to ‘sleep’ for the winter. Without some frost, plants will continue to grow and any prolonged harsh weather in subsequent months will kill off all the new growth and damage the plants, potentially irreparably. But we don’t want there to be a long frost this month, as it is a time for cutting back, pruning, shaping and even moving indoors to be ready for the winter proper.
This is a particularly good time for pruning roses and it is a big job for the Brodsworth gardeners as we have over 100 varieties of cultivated roses alone in our formal rose gardens. These are very old, fragile and beautiful roses introduced before 1890 and include Fantin Latours, Queen of Bourbon and Madame Noor. You want to prime your roses before the frost comes and give them as hard a prune as you dare so that you can reshape them for the spring. A rose is essentially a shrub and so it needs essential pruning for its re-growth.
We prune back to the lowest bud in the gardens, mainly because we want to avoid wind rock, a condition that can occur if your rose bushes are too top heavy. If you have a garden that is protected from the wind, you won’t need to worry so much. Our roses have seen great growth with the fine weather this summer and have had an abundance of blooms. Many of them have now become a little top heavy and you may see this in your roses also. If the winter wind gets to them, it will cause the bushes to rock and that can weaken the roots and potentially even topple them over. So we prune, prune, prune.
Bedding plants are another key area to focus on. It’s now time to lift your bedding out and for your spring bedding to go in. There are four or five different plants that are ideal to last the winter and you can put them in as small plants as they will lie dormant for the next four months or so. I would recommend violas, pansies and forget-me-nots as a start. They shouldn’t be affected by the weather, during the winter of 2006/7 we had around 10 inches of snow in the gardens and the bedding plants made it through unscathed.
And finally soil – this is the time to get your soil in order – to do some vital structural work on your top soil and we spend many hours digging and turning and mulching to improve the soil structure over the winter. If you have been composting over the spring and summer, this would be an ideal time to turn it into the soil. Use a good border fork or spade to help you along, but this quite hard manual work will more than reap rewards next season. Taking care of your top soil in this way also helps sanitise it. Any fly larvae or grubs in your current soil will be turned over to the surface, where they will re-enter the life cycle by either getting caught by the frost or greedily enjoyed by the birds.