Garden Blog | December 2019
With Christmas approaching at haste, we’ve been busy in the gardens doing our bit to heighten the festive feel here at Deene Park. As we do each year, we’ve set about making the Christmas balls that are hung in the Great Hall. By bringing evergreens, coloured stems, berries, and dried flower heads, all of which are available right now in the gardens into our homes to create our festive decorations, we are able to brighten the darkest days of winter with much welcome colour, and with evergreens a sense of the eternity of nature. Before we know it, days will begin to lengthen again, and the symbolic life that we have brought indoors will be cast aside, usurped by the return of life to our gardens.
The process of making our Christmas balls is very straight forward. Two mesh hanging baskets are filled with florists foam and attached to each other, forming a globe. We leave the foam dry, ensuring that the final creations are not too heavy to lift into place. Next, we insert coloured stems, giving an outward burst of colour. Evergreen foliage, in our case bay (Laurus nobilis), is used to densely cover the wire frame so that it cannot be seen, with the bright orange berries of Iris foetidissima (stinking Iris) seed heads added for their cheeriness. Lastly, for contest, we dot the Christmas balls with lacy dried flower heads of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’. Hoisting the Christmas balls into place is no mean feat, as they are quite heavy, and at over six foot across, quite bulky. However, with teamwork, we accomplish our goal. Once in place, the final garnish is added in the form of a sprig of mistletoe (Viscum album).
Besides having fun with Christmas decorations, we spend a great deal of time rose pruning at this time of year. We have dozens of roses grown either as free standing shrubs, trained over frames, or adorning the walls of the house and Old Kitchen garden.
The simplest group to deal with are the large rambling roses that scramble up through trees…we simply allow these to get on with it untroubled by our interference.
Another group requiring only minimal attention in the form of removing dead and diseased material are the specie roses.
Climbing roses are trained along wires attached to walls, and do need attention to keep in check. Left unpruned they will soon become a tangled mess with reduced flowering. For best results, smaller branches are pruned back to three of four buds from the base, just above an outward facing bud. Dead, diseased, and weak material is removed completely. Long, strong, vigorous new stems can be trained to form the permanent structure of the rose, and replace older stems that have become less productive.
Shrub roses, hybrid teas, and floribunda types all follow the same basic principles, the aim of which is to create an open habit of growth. Always remove dead, diseased, weak, and crossing material, and prune healthy growth to an outward facing bud. Hybrid teas and floribundas then have vigorous stems reduced to between four and six buds in length, with weaker stems back to three or four. Shrub roses with their more lax habit are pruned less rigidly, with all healthy growth pruned back by roughly a third.
Although rose pruning can sound complicated, it’s easy to get into the swing of things when stuck into it. Also, it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake, roses are a forgiving bunch.
Until the New Year, happy gardening.