January…thoughts of wisteria..

More on wisteria below- but an image here to whet your appetite while I ramble on towards that topic!..


Yes its January- I had to scrape the ice from the car windscreen before leaving the office yesterday evening in the dark which was a bit depressing. Nevertheless working in Penn Bottom does remain pretty much the best place to be. Our lovely barn is now toasty warm and the red kites are serenading us this morning- I actually thought someone was out in the car park whistling until his call broke into the more familiar kite warble.

2015-01-07 08.34.50

January gardening tips:

Sort all the bits you can do whilst staying warm- get mowers serviced before you need them and check the fencing and trellis for rot- treat them with preservative if you can get out there.

We are experimenting this year with using as much of the fallen leaf cover directly as a mulch as we can- this is Knowle Gardens’ top tip for keeping weeds down and moisture in with lower effort. They simply drag the leaves from the lawn and put directly on the beds. Their style of gardening is very low maintenance and they do little digging. The balance is to make sure that the plants we want to come through can, so I am currently playing this by ear and will perhaps do a bit of excavating in the next few weeks.

Deciduous shrubs can be gently pruned (avoid doing acers and vines this time of year-they don’t like it and should be pruned earlier)- aim to remove dead or diseased wood from the other deciduous stock and prune back to shape a bit. It is personal taste but I avoid like the plague turning everything into a ball- most shrubs have a geometry of their own that you can gently bring out and experiment with- arching branches and layers add texture to the garden that clipped ball shapes dont (although they have their place). Clearing the lower stems of mutistem trees and shrubs can be very effective and this is a great time to embark. Corylus contorta in particular look amazing treated in this way- it reveals the wonderful twisted stems and brings out the beauty of what I do feel otherwise looks often rather a messy shrub! Our wonderful Hampton Court garden featured these to great effect..CG Hampton13-47

Avoid pruning evergreens or anything tender until after the frosts-  pruning encourages new growth that is frost prone.

Wisteria pruning time is upon us- I really fancy one of these wisteria arches and I live in hope! In the meantime, prune whatever you have- cut all stems coming off the main framework back to 2-3 buds and tie into wires, vine-eyes or whatever else you are using. Feel free to be brutal- they are generally thuggish growers. I have one that is currently trying to (pretty successfully) climb into our bedroom window. They can damage a fair bit of guttering, weatherboarding and the like so it is worth keeping them in check.


Keeping them off the house and on a frame as in the arches above is a great idea- if you have a large garden you can make a real feature of this. Smaller gardens can use one of my favourite forms which is the standard tree…they will grace almost any garden and the form means you can keep them neat and clipped outside of the flowering time.

The images below are from my Islington garden many years ago- the wisteria was one of a pair framing the white garden section- as you can see it turned out not to be white, but since it flowered so beautifully i didn’t have the heart to remove it and when the crocuses joined in with the rebellion I gave in and my white garden became a purple and white garden.


Gardening is full of such compromises or shall we say happy accidents. I guess Vita Sackville-West resisted all such colour storms at the Sissinghurst white garden, and to wonderful effect…

sissinghurst white garden

I always imagine her walking in the garden considering carefully whether a particular shade of buttery cream is a bit too close to a yellow for the garden and perhaps ruthlessly removing it- I doubt my wisteria would have lasted more than a few moments from the buds emerging!

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