Prun­ing takes cen­tre stage

Hop­ing for a mild spring, Alice Spenser-higgs looks at how to pre­pare the gar­den and our­selves for a new sea­son

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AS THE mid­dle of win­ter ap­proaches, it is time to start pre­par­ing for spring. Rose prun­ing is one of the main tasks al­though the roses have kept on flow­er­ing be­cause of the mild win­ter.

Rose grower Lud­wig Taschner’s ad­vice is to de­lay prun­ing un­til the end of this month or even the first week in Au­gust. By then the blooms will be over and the roses will have ben­e­fited from the longer pe­riod of re­tain­ing ac­tive leaves.

“For most bush roses,” says Taschner, “the rule ap­plies that they want to be re­ju­ve­nated and this en­tails re­mov­ing older stems at the base and re­tain­ing younger woody branches. The age of the wood is usu­ally clearly seen by the grey bark and prick­les.

“Once the older wood is re­moved, cut the re­main­ing stems down to the de­sired height which may be at hip height (90cm) or knee height (50cm to 60cm).”

If a rose bush has not per­formed well one is tempted to cut it down hard but the re­verse is ac­tu­ally true. Prun­ing lightly al­lows the bush to quickly pro­duce lots of leaves and this strength­ens and de­vel­ops the roots, which leads to a health­ier bush.

Taschner also has point­ers for the more “spe­cialised” types of roses:

The white flori­bunda “Ice­berg” and oth­ers like it that sprout well on old wood should not be pruned back too se­verely onto the old thick wood.

Stan­dards are bush roses on a stick and are pruned se­verely, cut­ting bet­ter stems back 30cm to 50cm long mea­sured from the cen­tre of the crown. Older wood is cut out.

The shrubby ground­cover roses may be tack­led with a hedge clip­per.

The Spire Roses are re­ally very tall-grow­ing hy­brid teas and they are best cut back to about chest height.

Climbers that grow into and over trees can be left alone. An easy op­tion for those grow­ing on pil­lars or poles is to sim­ply spi­ral and tie the newer, last sea­son’s long shoots over the older growth, cre­at­ing a nice thick rose pil­lar.

Pa­narosa roses are mostly free­stand­ing shrubs that are trimmed, the ob­vi­ous, older basal stems re­moved and all re­main­ing longer canes short­ened.

To­day is the start of Gar­den World’s an­nual spring fes­ti­val and the 11 de­signer gar­dens are full of spring flow­ers and in­spi­ra­tional gar­dens ideas.

Kirsten­bosch cel­e­brates its cen­te­nary this year and the dis­play that won it a gold medal at Chelsea will be recre­ated at Gar­den World, with the sup­port of Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try and Clover Mama Africa.

This cen­te­nary dis­play is a walk down mem­ory lane, with the recre­ation of the Kirsten­bosch Cen­tral Gar­den and Dell — the old­est and most beau­ti­ful parts of the gar­den.

Herbs and veg­eta­bles are al­ways on the fes­ti­val pro­gramme. Gar­den diva, Lizette Jonker, has cre­ated a herb and flower-filled gar­den; Mar­garet and Sandy Roberts will be talk­ing about herbs and healthy liv­ing; and Jane Grif­fiths has re­turned with yet an­other de­li­cious gar­den. She will give a talk about her style of gar­den­ing on Au­gust 9.

There is plenty for chil­dren as well. On Au­gust 17 they can learn how to make bird feed­ers at a kids’ craft work­shop and there are chil­dren’s gar­dens to see, es­pe­cially the lit­tle box gar­dens that cre­ate a world in minia­ture.

Spring is tra­di­tion­ally the time of year for new re­leases and one of our in­dige­nous flow­ers that has cap­tured the at­ten­tion of breeders is the Cape daisy (Os­teosper­mum).

They have brought out two new colours in the Os­teosper­mum FlowerPower range — bril­liant red and bright yel­low with pink tinted cen­tre (Pink Honey).

Os­teosper­mum FlowerPower is a vig­or­ous grower, reach­ing a gar­den height of 36cm and a spread of up to 51cm. It is frost tol­er­ant, grows in sun or sem­ishade, and is drought tol­er­ant once it is es­tab­lished.

The new Pen­ste­mon Car­illo has the right height and growth habit for mixed beds or small gar­dens. It is a neat, com­pact plant, 25cm high and wide with loads of pur­ple, pink or red flow­ers. The nec­tar-rich flow­ers are a mag­net for but­ter­flies and bees.

Pen­ste­mon need full sun and don’t like wet feet so they should be planted in raised beds if the soil is too heavy.

As a ground­cover or for edg­ing there is the new Ver­bena “Quartz XP” pink. Its ex­tra large flow­ers cover the dark green leaves that spread up to 30cm.

Few gar­den flow­ers are as blue as lo­belia and the new Lo­belia Cu­ra­cao is heat tol­er­ant and is avail­able with dif­fer­ent growth habits — trail­ing for bas­kets and mounded for gar­den beds and con­tain­ers. The colours are bril­liant blue, pur­ple, blue with white eye and light blue.

Lo­belia ‘Cu­ra­cao’ adds a strong blue note to spring gar­dens, far left. Left: Sump­tu­ous com­bi­na­tions of flow­ers (ver­bena) and veg­gies (ar­ti­chokes) fea­ture at this year’s Spring Fes­ti­val that opens at Gar­den World to­day.

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