November 2015: Notes from the garden shed

"I think that I will never see a billboard lovely as a tree.

In fact, unless the billboards fall I’ll never see a tree at all."

This Ogden Nash poem sprang to mind as I watched this year's leaves fall away to expose the wonder of trees' architecture. We all love the greens of summer but as we’ve six months of ‘bare brown’ it’s worth getting to know the exquisitely intricate patterns of winter trees. These magnificent structures are celebrated in both art and architecture, especially wonderful is the fan-tracery found in English cathedrals like Lincoln.

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Now that the leaves have also fallen from our fruit trees and soft fruit bushes we can start to see how we need to reshape them for next year.  Pruning does so many things apart from reshaping – removing diseased and deadwood, encouraging new growth for more fruit next year and keeping air flowing throughout the plant structure, which will help to stop those fungus spores settling.

Squirrels are doing it - so are Jays (and probably many other species) - putting aside stock for the coming winter. In the Skip garden we’ve been increasing our Moroccan Mint stock by taking root cuttings from the mass of growth made during the summer.  Notably a group from the YMCA managed to fill almost one hundred and fifty 9cm pots!  My new saying for 2016 is going to be ‘you can’t have enough mint’ especially now as the kitchen is doing a roaring trade in mint tea.

We’ve also been busy taking softwood cuttings of salvia and our growing collection of scented geraniums that Erin (one of our able chefs) uses in her cooking for their delicate flavours. 

Happy pruning - but do wait until after the first frost has put all the deciduous plants to sleep for the winter, otherwise you’ll get unwanted secondary growth.

by Paul Richens