Flowers, Gardening, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

Multicoloured RoseUnlike trees, a shrub can easily survive the lopping of its stems. Pruning stimulates growth and increases the vigour and productiveness of the plant.

To a plant, pruning is a stimulus. Although you have reduced its size by cutting it back, you stimulate the growth of buds on the plant that were once forced to be dormant by the dominance of the terminal bud.

Remove the bud and others below will start to grow resulting in a bushier plant.

What does pruning actually do?

Gardeners talk a lot of rot about pruning. They talk about all the plant’s energy being routed into certain directions and whereas this might be the end result, what is actually going on is the result of changes of hormone levels within the plant.

Large-sized, deep red Hybrid Tea roseEach bud, and the tip of each branch, as well as each flower, and in the roots too – as well as under the bark and deep in the branch, gives off a cocktail of hormones that determine how the plant will grow. If you remove a branch, the hormones produced by it are removed, and this has consequences for the rest of the plant.

So, if you cut the branch off just above a bud, the hormones from that branch that usually inhibit the bud from growing are suddenly removed, and the bud will start to grow!

Pruning can allow us to create a plant that will grow in a way we want it to, rather than how the plant might naturally wish to grow. And there are many advantages to this. You have to remember that a bud will grow in the direction it is pointing and therefore you can determine the overall shape of the plant.

For roses, one of the reasons for pruning is to cut down the amount of fungal problems by allowing the breeze to flow through the plant effectively. This is done by creating a plant that is goblet shaped.

When you are pruning you need to look. Which way is the bud you are cutting above pointing? if it is towards the inside of the plant, then choose another that points outwards.

Read part two – the practicalities of pruning.

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.

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

Sometimes, because of life’s changes, work, poor health, family or whatever, you miss out on what you love. I have friends in the garden, and sometimes I ignore them. Well, actually, all the plants in the garden are my friends. I don’t care what they are, how common or exotic, I love them all the same.

And yes, I talk to them! Sometimes my best conversations are with plants, you see they always agree with me and we share a point of view. So you will understand that – apart from being quite mad, sometimes, when there are some old friends I simply have missed out on, I get rather melancholic.

Gone but not forgotten, the white bluebells now bearing fruit - see you next year old pal!
Gone but not forgotten, the white bluebells now bearing fruit – see you next year old pal!

I have found it difficult to physically walk to the end of the garden these past months. Down there in the hedge are to be found some white bluebells that make an appearance each year, and this year I only managed to see them once they had finished flowering and were literally past their best. A short walk away there is a wood, full of bluebells, and what a sight they are! But these little whites are solitary and special.

Now having plants as friends can cause you some problems. I have to confess loving weeds, and always feel a little guilty pulling them up. So Ii try and keep a space for them when I can. This year, so far, has been the year of the buttercup, and aren’t they beautiful?

Don't turn your nose up at buttercups, they are one of the most elegant plants in the garden.
Don’t turn your nose up at buttercups, they are one of the most elegant plants in the garden.

So the edge of my lawn is punctuated with a stand of field buttercups, and if I lift my head, across the valley, I can see a whole field of them, and on a warm Sunday I can imagine myself in a huge hundred acre field of yellow.

There are times when old friends have mishaps. when we moved here there was a clematis in a pot, growing up a trellis. The pot was about 6 inch diameter, and the plant went up about 20 feet!

Clematis - you can't kill them, they just keep coming back - thankfully!
Clematis – you can’t kill them, they just keep coming back – thankfully!

During our first summer the trellis fell off and I had to remove the plant. The roots had gone through the bottom of the pot and disappeared under the paving of the patio.

We get lots of questions about clematis. You will find, on the internet, all kinds of methods about pruning them, none of which are actually correct. The truth is there are two groups for pruning this brilliant climber.

If it flowers in the Spring, such as C. montana, then don’t bother at all, just keep it trim as you need. All the rest cut back as short as you like on Valentine’s Day – call it a massacre if you will.

Yellow Flag: irises make a great display and in the autumn you can divide them and make more
Yellow Flag: irises make a great display and in the autumn you can divide them and make more

Anyway, back to the old friend. I took a spade and cut the root at ground level and thought no more about it, until a few weeks ago when a hot day snooze found me waking to the sight of the old pal climbing the wall again.

I never have a better time than when talking to the iris. We have a strong bond, we two. I sometimes think I get more sense from them than anyone else in the household.

But this year they have a problem that needs fixing. It is the invasion of nettles. Nettles are hungry plants, beautiful in their own right – I love the geometry of the leaves, and the stings are so elegant when you look at them through a microscope.

But their heavy profusion means only one thing: the septic tank needs emptying, because there is a leakage. Nettles grow where there is a lot of nitrogen in the soil, you often see them in fields where cattle or sheep have gathered.

If it's archetecture you want, you would go a long way to better a nettle, but these ones spell trouble in the garden!
If it’s archetecture you want, you would go a long way to better a nettle, but these ones spell trouble in the garden!

It has come at an opportune time, the iris need dividing and replanting and this I will do in the autumn, so that next year there will be even more of them for a summertime chat!

Now, I am blessed with an ancient hawthorne in the garden. I wish everyone would grow them just because of the aroma of the flowers. In case you are somewhat bemused by my having plants as ‘friends’ then spend a little time thinking about hawthorne.

It is said to be terrible bad luck to burn the wood, or cut the plant without asking permission and when in flower you are not supposed to sleep under its branches, or you will be pulled down into the underworld to meet Bottom and his pals. I can well believe it!

Can't wait for these white roses to burst into flower.
Can’t wait for these white roses to burst into flower.

During my recent poor health I have fallen asleep, when the rain has left me a warmer blanket, under the hawthorne many times, and never have I had a more relaxing, deeper sleep. Thankfully the underworld left me alone, I didn’t grow donkey ears nor thought myself enamored of an ass.

My last pal for now, though there are hundreds more, is about to make an appearance. A lovely white climbing rose makes an appearance for a few weeks, rain permitting. Growing within it is a honeysuckle and a rowan, which I think is forming the basis for the whole structure, and I keep it trim to the top of the hedge.

When the flowers appear you cannot but want to sit beside it watching the bumblebees buzz heavily around. And a hot day, when the nectar is more fermented than normal, they sit lazily on the flowers and you can stroke them.

You know, regardless of its size, the garden is about the best friend we humans have. Perhaps that’s why all of the creation stories set our origins in one.

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.

Allotment, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

primrose spades I am often being asked about what garden tools a gardener should have in the locker as a bare minimum.

It’s a difficult question to answer because there are so many tools out there and frankly some of them I really don’t understand the use for, and I have been gardening for a long time!

Take garden forks, as a starting point! There are digging forks, potato forks, hey forks and manure forks, and from a distance it is pretty difficult to see any difference between them.

So what would I never do without?

Spade – Obviously, a good spade is a must. Remember that a spade is not a carrying tool, but a cutting tool. It is there to slice through the soil, and turn over the earth, like a one man powered plough.

Fork – A good fork is a must, and I would buy a general purpose one, with a good strong shaft for serious digging work. Use the fork to loosen up the earth, to incorporate manure and compost and start the job of making a fine tilth of your beds.

Hoe – This leads me onto a hoe. This is a tool with so many uses, a cutting tool and a weeding tool. Remember it has two cutting edges, not one. One for the push stroke and another on the pull stroke. It is used with a series of two and fro movements, either working the soil or cutting through weeds.

Rake – There are two more long handled tools I wouldn’t be without, both of them rakes. First is a garden rake, which I use almost exclusively for making a fine bed. They are great for getting the little stones out of the soil – particularly important when it comes to growing carrots. I also wouldn’t be without my grass rake, which I need to gather up clippings of all kinds on the lawn. The garden rake is too harsh for this and the long tines of the grass rake are just the job when it comes to not damaging the grass.

Trowel – A good trowel is a must, for planting bulbs and general pottering in the borders, adding plants, pulling them up and keeping everything tidy.

Now, of course, there are lots of other tools you could buy, but this list is my absolute minimum. But there is one more point we need to make.

Take care of your tools!

When you have finished using your tools – no matter how much you pay for them, always give them a wipe down.

Once a month, give the blade a good wipe over with an oily rag, and once a year sharpen the cutting tools. This way you will get a lifetime’s service, and your tools will become old friends.

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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