Six on Saturday: Partial Nudity

As this is a garden blog I can be fairly sure no-one reading this is expecting to find photos of the Golfer or myself cavorting semi-naked around the garden; if so, they would be disappointed, or relieved perhaps, to find pictures such as the severely cut back scented leaved pelargoniums (above) instead.

Following instructions from the specialist growers the initial plug plants came from, I have dutifully cut the pelargoniums back by half and removed all the leaves. During the winter they will be watered just once a month. However, since last week I have brought the streptocarpus and clivia from the Coop into the house for the first time, to reduce the need for heat, but on checking the pelargonium care I am reminded that they too prefer a minimum temperature of 5°C so leaving them in the Coop at a lower temperature may prove risky. In previous years I have used the greenhouse heater to keep temperatures at 6° or above, but even without the heater it has not yet dropped below this, and unusually for November we have still had no frosts. Hmm, this is something I will play be ear…

Also naked are the roses, as I have spent  2 or 3 hours over the last couple of days defoliating them, a practice I adopted following a conversation with someone at David Austin Roses, when I discovered they defoliate the roses throughout their nursery and gardens every year with the help of volunteers, to reduce the likelihood of blackspot. Even though I have a large number of roses it is a fraction of the number they have, and it is a task that takes far less time than you might think – no more than 5 minutes per rose. The bush roses were much easier to tackle than the climbing roses, as you might imagine, and some were almost leafless already but others, like super-healthy ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ below, were still fully clothed in bright green leaves before I stripped them naked.

The wisteria continues to shed its leaves onto the path below, and its bony skeleton now wears just a few rags – but they too will be soon be gone:

Nearby, the group of 3 dogwoods in the shrub border are all but ready to display their attractive stems for the winter, with just Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ reluctant to cast off the last of her garments. In a bid to take some control of their structure, all three were cut back even more severely than in previous years,  so they are not yet back to full strength.

Rain and a stiff breeze quickly bring down loitering leaves, and those of Amelanchier lamarkii were all gone a couple of weeks ago, revealing not just its structure, but a tiny nest towards the top, a robin’s I think:

There is a wide variation in the rate of leaf fall, not always the result of aspect or position. The photo below shows witch hazels Hamamelis ‘Rochester’, ‘Amethyst’ and ‘Arnold Promise’ in close proximity in the foreground, the first and last fully naked, with Amethyst still in full colour-changing mode; beyond them, the trees in our little woodland and the towering beech of our neighbours are in varying stages of undress.

Thank you to Jim of Garden Ruminations for hosting this Saturday meme, and do venture over to his blog to see his six and those of other contributors from around the world.

This entry was posted in Gardens, seasonal tasks, Six on Saturday, Winter. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Six on Saturday: Partial Nudity

  1. Jim Stephens says:

    I was out in the garden earlier in the week picking the nearly black leaves off Magnolia Vulcan so I could see the partially concealed Camellia behind it. I felt slightly sheepish and didn’t want anyone to be watching.

  2. I never heard of defoliating roses for winter, but I guess some people here in Wisconsin would either dig them up or bury them and mulch heavily. My grandmother had gorgeous roses at her house, but when she could no longer manage some of the heavier tasks (I lived out of state or I would have gladly helped), her roses all reverted to the thorny wild rootstock, with lovely simple wild roses, but not what she had when she was actively gardening. I am kind of a lazy gardener – I was reading about Jim lifting the dahlia tubers and I thought to myself: This is why I don’t grow dahlias. To make it in my garden, you have to be tough. If you can take my abuse, then you can have a home. I am hoping that by growing native plants in and around my veg garden, I will not need to baby them too much. But I am so glad that other people do! I love roses and would grow some perhaps, but Japanese beetles love roses too and I can bear it!

    • Cathy says:

      It’s really interesting to read about different practices so thanks for sharing yours. Like Jim, I lift my dahlias, and to me it isn’t really a chore, just one of the seasonal tasks like pruning and sweeping leaves – in some parts of the UK they might overwinter outside if mulched, but I would rather not risk losing anyway

  3. Ha! You’ve been busy! It’s always fun to see the photos of your garden now, and then compare them in the spring and summer. The Wisteria vines against the pink wall are lovely.

  4. tonytomeo says:

    If the dogwoods should not get coppiced, how severely should they get cut back? I sort of pollard mine, by leaving short stems about two to three feet high, but only so that they do not get trampled. I would prefer to coppice them. I wait as late as I can, just prior to refoliation, to enjoy the red twigs for as long as possible. I have not considered weakening them by pollarding or almost coppicing them.

    • Pauline says:

      The best colour is on coppiced stems, but you need to fertilise after cutting back.

      • Cathy says:

        Oh that’s a good tip, Pauline, and not something I have done before – but will take that on board. What fertiliser do you use?

      • tonytomeo says:

        Yes, but if it weakens them, there would be less of the stems annually. (I do not fertilize ours because they are in a riparian situation.) It never bothered me because there are too many, and I actually remove a few annually, but it would be more of a concern if there were only a few specimens. Actually, I do not notice the decline, since they are so variable. I leave short stems on ours, but instead of developing knuckles like pollarded trees, they die back a bit more annually, and generate new growth a bit lower on the retained stems. (I only leave the stems to avoid trampling.)

    • Cathy says:

      They respond well to coppicing as this will generate more coloured stems, but some people might choose to cut only a third of the stems back. I had a lot of criss-crossing stems, so was escpeally thorough this year – but like you, I enjoy them as long as I can and don’t cut back till they start to leaf up

      • tonytomeo says:

        So, alternating canes works as well?!, like for lilac, forsythia and elderberry? I had not considered that because they were so overgrown when I started with them. I did not put much effort into their cultivation. There are more options now that they are tamer.

  5. Pauline says:

    Leaves are never ending at this time of year, it is a non stop job for another few weeks!

    • Cathy says:

      I try to leave it to the Golfer if I can, as I have other tasks to do, but it’s a job I don’t mind doing – apart from the bagging up, which I find more tedious…

      • Pauline says:

        The undergardener used to do ours, but it is now up to me, along with all the other jobs! I don’t bag mine, they are piled in a corner of the woodland to rot down, which they do in just one year.

        • Cathy says:

          Hmm, I have been bagging mine the last couple of years but they have been ytaking more than 2 years to rot properly – don’t think they were wet enough. 🙄 I was going to say I haven’t the space to stack them in the woodland, but thinking as I write this I could probably stack them in the space I use for the bags, down the side of the bothy…

  6. Rosie Amber says:

    Oh that’s a great tip re the roses, I shall try that too. Thank you.

  7. Heyjude says:

    I thought the stripping roses of leaves was only if you had had blackspot? I’m curious to know the size of your pots of the scented pelargoniums. I haven’t cut mine back anywhere near as much as you have and I never remove the leaves unless they go yellow. Saying that I do leave a couple of large plants outside and usually cut them back hard in the spring.

    • Cathy says:

      They are cut back around a half, so the stumps you saw here are about 4 or 5″ tall. I forgot to do them last year and they certainly didn’t get through the winter as well as they have done previously – some plants I had to take cuttings from and dispose of the old plant. It seems to work for me

      • Heyjude says:

        I’m always taking pellie cuttings, but never seem to throw the old plant away! Unless it actually dies.

        • Cathy says:

          Haha – I was tempted to keep mine, I must admit, and the latest ones I took cuttings from do still have their mothers. I took a number of cuttings in the spring to grow on to sell when we open the garden and they flew off the plant table, so I shall certainly do that again next year

    • Cathy says:

      Oh and the roses, like the pelargoniums, I am going on what the experts say – and in fact most of my roses do have at least a hint of blackspot by the end of the season

      • Array says:

        Oddly enough mine didn’t this year, but not many flowers either. Must do better with using the rose tonic. Do you plant Salvias among your roses? That’s supposed to deter blackspot. Unfortunately I don’t have a good record with salvias, too wet probably.

        • Cathy says:

          I start the season well with feeding regimes, but it tails off! Hadn’t hear about salvias and roses – I was going to suggest it could be the smell of the leaves but then realised what a daft suggestion it was!! 🤣 Shame about salvias for you, though…

  8. Very interesting post Cathy! I have to say that I got distracted by the boxes to the left of the denuded rose (yes and the first paragraph 😉 ). Anyhow, can I ask what the box with the huge round opening and the flat box below it are for? I assume wildlife, but I can’t say I’ve seen their like before.

    • Cathy says:

      Ah yes, the round box is for cardboard tubes for mason bees, which we have sent to the ‘mason bee man’ for the winter. We will be sent cocoons (as many as were produced in our garden) in the spring. The flat box is the release box, where we place the new cocoons to hatch (usually around apple blossom time)

  9. Anna says:

    Can I ask exactly how do you defoliate the roses please Cathy? I imagine that you can’t pick off or snip off the individual leaves as it would take longer than the five minutes per rose you mention. Maybe it’s a shaking technique that you adopt 🤔 My mind is working overtime 😂 Would love to give my roses a chance to escape the dreaded blackspot. I like the foliage colour on hamamelis ‘Amethyst’.

    • Cathy says:

      It took a bit of experimentation to work out how best to do it, Anna, and for me it depends largely on the stoutness of the stem and the size of the leaves. On stouter stems and bigger leaves, holding the end of the stem in my non-dominant hand I use the other han (gloves preferred!) to gently tug each leaf downwards. For thinner stems and smaller leaves I would hold the stem lower down and grip it quite tightly whilst I pulled upwards up the stem taking several leaves at one time. Hope that helps – you would need to try it to appreciate the required actions better, I think!

  10. That first sentence made me chuckle. Having been fortunate enough to meet you (albeit fully clothed!), I now have a marvellous image of the two of you frolicking around the garden, like Adam and Eve. 🙂
    Thank you for the tip about the roses.

  11. Noelle says:

    I shall don my winter gardening clothes are go and deleaf the roses, only because the neighbours may catch a glimpse of me and I think some clothes are a good protection against rose thorns!

  12. Cathy says:

    It would be a bit chilly for naked gardening, but the title is very apt for describing the state of foliage in your garden. I do believe there is actually a Naked Gardening Day in the US! I will have to look that up….. 😉

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