Flowers, Gardening, How To, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell, Planting

We all know that pruning is a very important task in your garden, but we’re often asked about pruning roses and other shrubs.

Rosa 'Iceberg' at the San Jose Heritage Rose GardenIf the shrub flowers on current year’s wood, then cut it back hard each winter. Buddleia is a good example – If you simply trim the plant it will become leggy and bare at the bottom. Cut each stem back from October onwards to within a foot from the ground and you will get vigorous, healthy growth in the new season.

If you have inherited an old shrub with little foliage on the lower half of the plant, take out the older branches thus leaving some newer ones to maintain health. Continue taking out the oldest branches each year and within two seasons you will have a new looking shrub.

There are some special cases, such as those roses in need of specialist pruning. Usually they are cut short – just above a bud which will grow into a new branch and consequently bear flowers.

Rosa 'Banzai 83' im Volksgarten in WienThere are lots of reasons for pruning shrubs. Unlike the rest of us, roses are not able to forecast the weather, and they take the mild weather as a trigger to put on new growth, and off they go doing what they do best – growing towards the sun.

Actually, roses are really glorified brambles, and if left alone they would soon become a tangled mess, impenetrable and thick – which might be good in a hedge, but not in the flower border. To keep them under control is the most important part of growing roses.

General rules for pruning roses:

  • Deadhead – and in the winter, go round pruning off the fruit that is rotting off on the plant. We all have them in our garden, and it is good to get rid before they cause infection.
  • Don’t leave a long piece of stem from a bud, it will only die and rot – cut as close to a bud as you can.
  • Always cut in a sloping direction away from the bud, so that any rain will actually run off the cut and not soak the bud – which can cause rotting.
  • Always take out branches that touch or threaten to touch another branch.
  • Always cut out dead wood back to good, healthy wood.
  • Do not leave your cuttings on the floor to rot, burn them and then compost the ashes – rose branches take ages to compost themselves.
  • Remember the goblet shape, and this goes for standard roses too, at the top of the central stem.
  • Always use good quality secateurs – so the cut is sharp and clean, ragged cuts provide a home for fungal infection.
  • Always disinfect your secateurs when you have finished a plant – I use a disinfectant baby wipe – you don’t need to pass infections from plant to plant.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

Flowers, Gardening, How To, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell, Planting

National Plants at Work WeekIt might be the only member of the office team you can trust, it might hide you and your growing mound of paperwork from the eye line of your bosses or it might just be the only living reminder of a world outside, a garden and a life of greener things.

But the office plant really is one of the team, and deserves looking after.

So here are ten tips for keeping your plant really healthy:

1 – Let there be light

You need to ensure that your plant has sufficient light to be able to grow. Many offices, especially large ones have only low powered strip lighting, fit neither for plant nor beast. So if you want to see your plant doing well, get it as much natural light as possible.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to take you plant on holiday for a week to your home to get all boosted and pampered. If you want to keep your plant on the desk, move it for a few hours during the day to a window, but watch out for our next tip.

2 – Watch out for the radiators

Pink Orchid

In most offices, like most homes, the radiator is near the window – the coldest part of the room. Some offices have blown air conditioning. Both of these can be detrimental to plants, making them too hot, and drying them out more rapidly than normal.

Find a light source that is cool, without radiators and away from other electrical equipment.

3 – It’s not a plant stand

Computers and plants do not mix, especially where they are high powered machines giving off lots of heat and radiation. The number of accidents from spilt watering probably costs businesses more than they can afford, and probably a number of lost jobs to boot.

4 – Don’t overwater

Lucky BambooWe all do it, but interestingly more at work. People tend to overwater, thinking this is the way to keep the plant alive. If the compost feels slightly damp, it’s fine! Leave it alone.

Most plants do not want to be sat in a pot in a saucer of water – it’s not a cat, it’s a plant and waterlogged roots don’t encourage good plant health.

5 – Feed once a month

The problem with plants in pots is they run out of nutrients quickly, so once a month, give them a feed that is correctly diluted. Plants lacking nutrients look as though they are wilting, and therefore people simply give them extra water! Don’t, a feed a month is fine.

6 – Get to know your plant

Bromeliad TillandsiaThe most important part of any plant in office or at home is get to understand what it needs.

  • If it has thick leaves that look all spongy, it likes dry conditions.
  • If it has hairy leaves, it usually likes a wide pot, like St Paulias.
  • If it is blueish, it doesn’t particularly like bright sunlight all day long.

7 – Don’t put your brew next to your plant

This is the quickest way to destroy your plant. The heat from the cup causes local damage and the steam moistens the leaves. This causes a prime source of infection from fungi, and your plants will get sick.

8 – Repot and divide your plants

OrchidOnce a year move the plant to a bigger pot and give it fresh compost.

Learn how to divide your plant and you can give them away to other offices too!

9 – Keep them on a tray

In order to separate the world of plant from the world of desk, keep your plant on a tray, which will then cope with minor spillages and keep the whole area from disaster.

10 – Stop touching

daffodilsIf you touch, so will others, and during the course of the week the plant might easily become damaged from too much handling.

Some plants when touched, or worse, when broken, have a self help mechanism to make themselves look unpalatable to potential herbivores, so constant handling might well cause problems.

Take a look at the Primrose office plants and 5 ways indoor gardening will improve your life.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

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