Keep garden mulched

Keep your garden mulched this summer


Life & Style
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Fiona Ogilvie has long given up making new-year resolutions but urges gardeners to keep the garden mulched.

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Rock Rose (Cistus) “Bennett’s White” has the largest flowers of any Cistus in early summer. Don’t forget to water your citrus trees, they’ll need plenty of tender loving care to produce fruit in the coming months.

Rock Rose (Cistus) “Bennett’s White” has the largest flowers of any Cistus in early summer. Don’t forget to water your citrus trees, they’ll need plenty of tender loving care to produce fruit in the coming months.

January is here and another year in the garden. I’ve long since given up making new-year resolutions, horticultural or otherwise, but should I do so, heading the list would be to keep the garden mulched.

This sounds mildly dotty as in fact I’ve always mulched the garden but it has been a piecemeal effort, a bit here, a bit there whenever I could sneak half an hour and a bale of lucerne.

Then last September a combination of circumstances, including the drought, opening the garden in November and access to some storm-damaged hay, inspired me to do it properly.

It took a couple of weeks but it made a fantastic difference to the garden. They now survive for longer without extra water and there are fewer weeds.

Best of all, like laying a fitted carpet where previously they was bare floor and a random collection of rugs, the garden now has unity and, in my eyes at least, looks more cared for and inviting.

Let’s hope I can keep up the good work.

Meanwhile, mulch or not, waist high weeds usually follow the occasional January storm and it’s a good idea to remove them before they set seed.

Grab left-over spring annuals at the same time, as their seeds will be scattered by now.

The only one I leave is the lovely Silver Dollar plant or Honesty (Lunaria annua) as I like watching its large, mother-of-pearl, coin-like pods emerge.

I grow both white and purple flowered honesty but have never been able to track down seeds of a white variegated leaf variety I saw once in New Zealand. Ah well, us gardeners all need a dream.

Rose pruning can go on all summer, cutting back branches after their flowers have faded to encourage new flowering stems.

Spring flowering lavenders can also be pruned in January.

Rose pruning can go on all summer, cutting back branches after their flowers have faded to encourage new flowering stems. Spring flowering lavenders can also be pruned in January.

Rock roses (Cistus species) have finished blooming by now and can be pruned hard.

These invaluable shrubs from the Mediterranean grow huge and leggy in time unless you keep snipping away at them.

Most are easy from semi-ripe cuttings taken from now until autumn, though I have had trouble with a favoured white variety, the large-flowered “Bennett’s White”.

This is a lovely rock rose when it succeeds, so I’m prepared to give it another go, as I’d like a few back up plants.

Other good cuttings to take now are Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis species), your favourite winter-flowering daphne (D. odora), and another sweetly scented winter bloomer, the invaluable wallflower Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’.

It flowers for most of the year but needs a hard trim in January.

Put cuttings in pots with a plastic bag over their heads to retain moisture, and park in the shade.

They should make roots by autumn, watch for new shoots.

Lastly don’t forget your citrus trees. They’ll need plenty of tender loving care in the form of water and fertiliser if you’re looking forward to a mammoth harvest of oranges and lemons, limes and grapefruit, this winter.

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