There is no better way to work off Christmas excess than pruning trees and shrubs

PUBLISHED: 21:02 28 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:34 20 February 2013

Dan turning compost to help achieve high enough temperatures to see off ‘nasties’

Dan turning compost to help achieve high enough temperatures to see off ‘nasties’

There is no better way to work off Christmas excess than pruning trees and shrubs, says Dan Booth, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall

In spite of the biting cold and regular frosts there is still a bit to do in the garden, and here at Brodsworth Hall we are busier than ever. This month sees the start of a major restoration project on the North Drive as we continue to work toward the completion of our Victorian garden.

This latest project involves the removal of overgrown and self-set shrubs and the hard pruning of several mature plants including Taxus, Aucuba and Prunus. Once this work is complete we will then be able to restore the historic width to the lawns either side of the drive and finally resurface the drive itself providing easier access for all our visitors.

January is a good time of year to complete similar tasks in your own garden (you are excused resurfacing the drive for visitors). It is important when hard pruning any plants, especially mature trees (mainly evergreens) and shrubs to not be overly cautious. It is unlikely that a plant with a well established root network will die as a result of anything you do in terms of pruning so dont be scaredgo for it!

One thing you must watch out for when pruning variegated varieties is reversion. Reversion results in a section or sometimes an entire branch re-growing in just one of the colours (i.e. all yellow or all green) rather than the previous variegated mixture. This will take over the whole plant if left unchecked but can usually be pruned out at source so dont worry about it too much. Occasionally reversion can occur where a previously non-variegated plant randomly sprouts a variegated stem. These can be cut off and grown on and in fact this is how many variegated cultivars originated.

If you are undertaking major pruning there are a few simple guidelines that will help the plant recover more quickly, producing neat, round calluses in the process.

When cuts are required close to the main trunk or any structural branches make sure to take the weight out of the branch by removing the large majority of it a good distance away from the main stem. This will prevent a ripping effect where the branch falls, tearing a strip down the stem in the process. This may take several steps if you are dealing with a large branch.

Once you are left with a short stub take care not to cut in to the branch collar when making your final cut. The branch collar contains the healing power to cover up the wound properly, if this is damaged the wound may remain open for much longer or even permanently, massively increasing the risk of infection from a whole host of garden nasties. This final cut should be made at an angle, sloping downward to help shed water just outside the thicker section (branch collar) where the remaining stub meets the stem.

The finished job may look a little harsh at first but you will be surprised how quickly the plant rejuvenates.

On to a slightly less technical matter...MUCK!
When frost prevails and the ground is frozen solid dont be too disheartened. This is the ideal opportunity to get some muck on to your beds without getting completely covered in mud. You will be able to walk all over your beds with out leaving so much as a footprint and all the shovelling and barrowing will help keep you warm.

Any organic matter will benefit the soil and its structure, but do be careful to check that the plants in your beds are getting all they need and not so much of what they dont. For example, a Rhododendron will prefer acidic mulch. Such products can be bought but you can just as easily make your own by combining conifer trimmings or pine needles with leaf mould and leaving it to compost thoroughly.

Here at Brodsworth Hall we try our best to recycle as much green waste as possible and our compost contains a wide range of arisings from leaves to evergreen clippings. We achieve temperatures as high as 65c in our heaps through regular turning which is more than enough to kill off the nasties and sterilise any weed seeds that may have made their way in.
Do you have a corner in your garden where nothing grows? Build a compost bin and give it a go. Its easier than you think and very rewarding.

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