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
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.