What are we all doing in November? In praise of Pruning and Defuzzing.

I’m guessing most of us Cothigardeners  view November as one of the quietest times in the garden. The weather’s often poor, the light levels dim and the days short.

So great to have some pictures and words from Elena showing what she’s been up to …

Been spending my days preparing some new beds … while spending my evenings buried in garden porn … changing my mind constantly about what to plant.

A wonderful moment of evening light reflecting on the last of the autumn colour on our trees, looking across the meadow to the river.

Elena has also forwarded on this confirmation from the NGS Great Garden Party Just Giving Website of the brilliant Cothigardeners’ donations arising from September’s 4 garden parties. Shown below:

A great effort by all considering that the total raised was about £12,000 nationally apart from the amazing effort by the CEO George Plumptre who raised a further £12,000 from a raffle he organised. Very sadly a lot of other parties were stymied by Covid restrictions introduced in mid September.

 


November always seems a time of mundane tidying up jobs with us, before the first of the spring bulb shoots push through which is already happening mid month. But there’s still some autumn leaf colour around, and always valued as being the last leaves to fall.

A Cornus kousa chinensis grown from seed (top); a Golden Spirea, and below some of the Hergest Croft trip Sorbus seedlings, showing signs of great potential autumn colour for years ahead.

But once all the leaves have fallen it really leaves the bones of the garden and the evergreen plants.

What to do with these as they grow bigger over time, and tend to merge as, typically, we’ve probably planted some of them too close together?

Well this stunning garden, below, which we were fortunate to visit in Paris a few years back in autumn and then in early May, had some beautifully cloud pruned Camellias, and a very Japanese feel to areas of it:

(Jardin de Albert Khan, Paris. For such a stunning place, it has a really poor website though! )

So at last after over a decade of slow growth, I thought I’d have a go with a bit of cloud pruning on some of our Camellias , which are at last becoming quite dense foliage shrubs for most of the year, when they’re not in flower, and frankly not that visually interesting like this.

Before beginning any work I found myself back at the website of the amazing  Tikorangi garden in New Zealand, and in particular this article by the owner Abbie Jury” In praise of Pruning”. Click here. 

She quotes the advice of gardener, sculptor and retired florist, David Anyon : He “emphasises that what he does isn’t pruning so much as shaping, to create mood and drama. He’s convinced that if more gardeners got stuck into a little clipping and shaping of their trees and shrubs from the outset, it would help to prevent mish-mashed jungles.”

In turn she also writes the piece below, which struck a chord with us since our garden has now moved past the newly planted feel in quite a few areas. I’m guessing this may also apply to some other members who’ve now been gardening in the same place for quite some time.

“As the plants grow and start to compete for more space, often intertwining and encroaching on their neighbours, the whole effect starts to meld into the mishmash referred to by David.

A very different set of skills are needed to take the garden to its next level of maturity – lifting the skirts of larger plants to expose the trunks, creating layers, thinning, shaping, changing some of the underplanting to meet different conditions for starters.”

She also adds :

David Anyon also refers to what he calls ‘defuzzing’ – removing little twiggy bits and dead bits from branches of larger plants. He sees it as making for cleaner, more attractive trunks and framing small spaces and vistas in the garden. I couldn’t agree more. This defuzzing is, I decided a while ago, one of the most satisfying and fun aspects of gardening. You can’t defuzz in young, juvenile gardens- there is not enough to defuzz. But it has a most rewarding impact in an older garden.

So I’ve just discovered I really agree with this advice! It’s actually a very satisfying benign way to spend an hour or two, even in the poor light and rain of late autumn and early winter, working over some of the denser evergreen Camellias to expose a few bare branches and let a little more light into the lower levels. I guess there are other evergreens which would benefit, though the defuzzing and raising of the canopy works just as well with smaller deciduous shrubs or trees, like Acers, as they get a bit bigger. (Albert Khan views again below …)

So maybe something others might fancy trying out? Rather like thinning apples, it’s a bit of a wrench to cut off healthy stems with developing flower buds, so it’ll be a gradual process over a year or two I guess. But you’re only likely to achieve the sort of gorgeous effect I photographed at Albert Khan below if you do, by allowing light and petals to reach beneath the flower laden branches, and lie amongst the bare trunks.

So a stunning scene of (early May) beauty to reflect on as we near the end of the year. (Many thanks to Fiona for some of these photos from our trips)


It was lovely to hear from Moira very recently that she was able to join Joseph Atkins, Aberglasney’s head gardener,  who has very kindly planted a newish New Zealand cultivar of Magnolia  – Tikitere, in memory of her husband Keith Brown, in the gardens, behind the mansion. In due course a label will record the dedication of the tree in Keith’s memory, so a wonderfully fitting memorial for a great Carmarthenshire gardener and friend of many of us in Cothigardeners, who passed away earlier in the year. Many thanks for Moira’s permission to include her photos:

For anyone wanting to see what Magnolia Tikitere looks like in flower, here’s a glowing short tribute to its merits from Charles Williams, the owner of Caerhays gardens in Cornwall. Click here to view.

 


Finally, as always, it would be lovely to hear from any members about their favourite plants, or things in their gardens as we go through the next few winter months. It doesn’t look like physical meetings will still be possible anytime soon, so if you want to read about other member’s gardens, then do send me something!

Why not write even just a few words – it’s a great way to keep the grey cells working, and send an image or two, preferably resized down to less than 1 MB? I can’t promise to put everything up online immediately, but usually within a fortnight, and it’s another way of keeping in touch and passing on information.

Or use the Cothigardeners Facebook Page.

You can send things to me at:

Cothigardeners@gmail.com

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