During the early clear-up, the sharp, dried stems left behind the Campanulas (bell flower) gave me an unexpected jab in an unprotected place. Not wise when I have secateurs on my belt and sturdy scissors in my back pocket. The culprits were cut to the ground as they should be but probably with less mercy than had they behaved in a more gentlemanly manner.
Allium “Red Mohican” & “Christophii”
The Santolina rosmarinifolia “Lemon Fizz” (cotton lavender) and Anthemis tinctoria “Sauce Hollandaise” (dyer’s chamomile) are both hardy herbaceous perennials, now past their best. They have been a mass of delicate yellow blossom giving me a wealth of golden texture, untroubled with pests but pestered by bees. I gave each plant a fairly austere haircut and rewarded their exemplary performance with a dose of fish, blood and bone fertiliser. I have a fabulous book on how and when I should be doing this: The RHS “Pruning And Training” by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce (ISBN 0 7513 0207 4) is my favourite reference for necessary attacks on weird stuff in the conservatory. When I’m knee deep in the border, muddy, sweaty and a long way from the library, generally I do my chopping immediately after flowering.
Cynara cardunculus (cardoon)
I cut the tops off the lilies, leaving the leaves to photosynthesize. The colonies of snails hiding beneath were collected and put in the green bin, to go on their holidays with the council. The Sorbaria sorbifolia (false spirea) has been busy suckering all over the front bed. Proper practice is to sever the unwanted shoots at the parent but I couldn’t dig up six feet of heavily planted border to get to the source. Whilst endeavouring to remove roots below ground level without endangering my secateur blades, the shrub’s woody stem caught me a glancing blow. I bleed if you were to give me an unkind look. Now I had a trickle of my own life-giving fluid splashing on the soil. The Sorbaria learned a harsh lesson thereafter, since sheer temper helped me to give the brute a sound battering. It will be back, I know but for now it is temporarily subdued.
Eucomis comosa “Sparkling Burgundy” (pineapple lily) in the conservatory
How do you decide where to prune? Little old lady gardening decrees that you hack things down to sap oozing stumps. If you are a twenty first Century gardener, perhaps better to resist slashing shrubs down to sticks like Grandma. Aim to leave a pleasing shape from which new growth will sprout. Doing the job now, means that a halo of leaves will have time to grow before the season ends. Any plant which causes you pain, either physical or emotional, may be trimmed, thrashed or trashed and deserves what it gets.