Rose pruning in January

Growing up in southern California, my best friend’s mom always used to prune her roses on 1 Jan, while we were watching the Rose Parade on TV.  She’d bring in several vases full of her lovely sprays of blooming roses year after year while my friend and I sat and marvelled at the imaginative floats covered in exotic plant materials and eating our warm cinnamon mountains.  Wow, those were the days!

Back to 2014… This weekend I forced myself to forget about the brambles and anemone for the time being to do something more fun.  Since we’ve had such a mild winter, I let myself be inspired by some rose pruning videos from the Royal Horticultural Society.  So out came the gloves and clippers, sorry secateurs.

But I think 1 Jan is a wee bit too early to prune roses in Scotland, so I usually hold off until February or so.  However, my gardener friend who looks after Princes Street Gardens and their roses, told me that with warm winters I can prune earlier.  That’s what I did last year, so I hope my bushes are safe this year too!  We’ll see.

I didn’t realise just how mild it has been, until I was cutting off branches down to fairly big and developed buds with aphids safely tucking into my roses’ baby leaves!  Hmmmm, I don’t like aphids at all.  Every year I buy ladybug, sorry ladybird, larvae as soon as possible (they go on sale in early May) and strategically put them on patches of aphids.  And every year I have to really hunt to find early colonies of the leaf-sucking intruders upon which to lay my juvenile ladybirds.  I can’t recall ever seeing adult aphids ‘wintering’ on my plants before and certainly not in such large numbers.  Does this mean we’re in for an explosion of the pests this spring?  I hope not, but again we’ll see.

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Evicting unruly border tenants

I'm not sure which is the worse eyesore - the broken bench or the brambles.  Yeah, the sad seat!

I’m not sure which is the worse eyesore – the broken bench or the brambles. Yeah…OK..the sad seat!

I probably should have started my increased gardening endeavour with fun tasks like planting bulbs or installing new garden furniture. Instead I have been locked in a battle to clear out some plants that I once thought nice. Brambles! I will never forget my excitement upon seeing the first blackberry in the garden a few years ago…lovely free fruit volunteers growing in my untended borders. Lucky me! The only problem was that there were too few berries to satiate my family’s berry love. So I let them roam and hoped for more the next year. Last year was the first summer where our garden brambles kept up with our eating. I must admit it was nice to watch the kids foraging in the garden, and our weekly crumbles were divine. However, the growing brambles (aka barbed wire) winding it’s was through my hydrangeas, peonies, roses and azaleas are NOT nice. So, this year I have tasked myself with removing them from my borders. After some thorough web searching for chemical-free ways to clear brambles, I decided to use the snipping root method described here. The only problem for me is that this isn’t really sexy work so I haven’t been as motivated as I should be. Plus it’s been wet, dark, cold yada yada yada.

The next thick-stemmed sucker to come out!

The next thick-stemmed sucker to come out!

The good news is that I have taken out about half of the brambles in my garden.  Next tenant to evict will the one I’ve battled with for the past 5 years.  The Japanese anemone!  But I might first do something more fun and satisfying like planning out and planting a soft fruit patch before thinking about the anemones.