January. JANUARY! Happy New Year everyone! It’s been all go here at twool HQ – guest blogger, Alison has kindly written a Winter Garden post for us – enjoy 🙂
Winter is the time to prune grape vines although as with pruning anything avoid frosty weather as freezing temperatures can damage the cut surfaces, as well as the gardener’s fingers as you tie the canes into your support. The key to pruning a grape vine and still getting a crop of grapes is to decide on a framework shape to cover the desired space and establish this, and then start the annual pruning routine to keep a supply of one-year old wood that will bear the most flowers and grapes the following summer. This approach is the same whether you have your vine growing against a wall or over a pergola. The first pruning to do is to remove any dead or badly placed stems just as you would for any other woody plant. Then simply cut back the fruited stems leaving 2 or 3 buds to regrow. Any canes that you want to extend or add to the framework of the plant are gently pulled to the supporting wires, strings or trellis and tied in, I use heavy weight twool strung between the beams of my pergola and the regular twool to tie canes into position using a ‘figure of eight. Winter pruning is done when the vine is completely dormant, well before any signs of spring as vines are notorious for bleeding sap, sometimes in startling quantities.
What could be lovelier than the sight and scent of Hyacinths to brighten up January and fragrance a whole room? They are easy to grow in pots from prepared bulbs but if you did not get around to planting your own in October or receive a pot for Christmas, then it is not too late to treat yourself to a winter ‘pick-me-up’ from a nursery or garden centre. The only downside of those huge flower heads on indoor Hyacinths is their tendency to droop over almost as soon as they open. My suggestion is to use a few decorative twigs and twool to support both the strappy leaves and the precious flower. As with most plant supports the time to install this is before you need to. Here I have used a mix of coloured Cornus (Dogwood) twigs around single bulbs just coming into flower in 1 litre pots. twool keeps the whole thing together and will keep the leaves upright as they grow.
Finally, remember that plenty of wildlife keeps going through the winter and needs food and water whatever the weather. In fact only three native British mammals hibernate, although most are less active as the temperatures drop. Award yourself an extra biscuit if you identified Bats as one of the three: hedgehogs and dormice are the ones the we usually manage to recall. If you have an apple going spare (or going soft!) it is easy to hang it out for the birds. Tie two wooden sticks or skewers into a cross with a length of twool, leaving the long enough to thread up through the centre of the apple. Core the apple so that you have room to thread the twool through and then stuff the core back in keep it steady.
Alison Marsden is an independent gardening guru helping gardeners everywhere add to their understanding and confidence. www.gardeningbydesign.co.uk/box-of-tricks