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gardening with Anne McKeon

Since I spoke to you last week I hope that you have been busy gardening and enjoying all that the autumn/early winter has to offer in the garden. Remember that gardening should be hobby and not a chore.

The wind has rattled a lot of trees and shrubs this year so there is quite a lot of cleaning up to be done out there. A little bit like clearing up after the party has ended and the guests have gone home, if you like. Once fed and watered, they have left and you have to roll up your sleeves and sort out the debris. Think of the good times and enjoyment that the garden has given you all summer (a bit like the fun at the party ) while you are out there in the cold, raking and sweeping.

Most perennial flowers will have finished flowering by now so they will need cutting down and dividing. Collect the stakes, canes, and ties used to support them during the year and put them away neatly for safe keeping in a dry garden shed.

Your annual summer bedding plants will by now have gone past their best. Dig out the remnants and put the debris on the compost heap. Waste not, want not!

While you are dealing with the summer flowers do not forget the tuberous begonias. These should be lifted, cleaned, and stored in a dry, frost-proof shed.

Another job that you can start now, but can in fact continue over the winter months (so you need not be under pressure with this job ), is the propagation of hardwood cuttings of hedging plants and woody shrubs. Cuttings should be approximately 10 inches to 12 inches long and pencil thick. Maybe you are one of those people who go out for a walk in the evening and bring back home half a bush with you. It might have been lying there at the side of the road and you did not have the heart to leave it there. Fine, but do not stick the whole bush down and think that it will root into a strong shrub. Not so. That is a little bit like sticking a feather into the ground and thinking that you will grow a hen! Smaller, pencil thick, cuttings have less work to do and will root easier. Make a slanted cut (to allow water to run off and avoid rotting ) under a bud and put the cuttings into a mixture of garden soil and sand. These should root in approximately six weeks. It is not difficult and not expensive. If by chance you have some failures do not lose heart. Try again. There is no expense involved in this method of propagating your plants so, as the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, again.

Have I given you enough to do for the next few days?

Talk to you soon.

Garden checklist

• Leave flower beds undisturbed during the winter. Flowers that have yellowing or fallen leaves are providing homes for ladybirds.

• If Virginia creepers and ivy plants have become overgrown, trim back now.

• Begin feeding birds once the weather gets cold. The blackbirds are loving my Cotoneaster wat Pendula at the moment.

Happy gardening!

Anne.

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