Pruning Cut

Down to earth gardening

Anyone who knows me, reads any of my magazine articles, comes to one of my talks at a gardening club, a Q&A session at a flower show or listens to me on BBC Essex and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, will know that I try to make gardening as easy as possible and I have a down-to-earth approach. Did you know gardening is a hobby? It’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable!

When I joined the Royal Horticultural Society as its Web Editor, the Director General introduced me to the RHS Council by saying: “We welcome Geoff and I’m sure his hands-on, down-to-earth attitude to gardening will produce dividends for the RHS website. I just hope he doesn’t bring the rest of the RHS down to his level,”! I was quite chuffed with that.

Busting garden myths

I’m also keen on garden myth busting. All those useless and incorrect pieces of gardening information that everyone quotes ad infinitum, which have been handed down from generation to generation for many years – and are just utter rubbish! So, here are just three relevant to this time of year that will hopefully make you think – and may even make your gardening easier.

“Pruning cuts should be made on a slanting downward angle.” – Why? The usual reason quoted is that a slanting cut will shed water. It doesn’t. The material inside the cut stem is porous, so it will absorb water that it comes into contact with, whatever the angle. A slanting cut has a larger surface area, so it absorbs more water. The plant cells that ensure the cut heals quickly are situated at the nodes (leaf joints), so the end furthest away from the node will heal more slowly and the whole cut heals at different rates. So, make straight cuts.

“Leave the faded flower heads of hydrangeas on the plant over winter” – Why? Apparently, this is because they will protect the tip of the stems (where the developing flower buds are) from cold and frost damage. What tosh! How on earth does a flimsy, filigree dead flower protect anything from anything – let alone penetrating deep cold and frost – just think about it. If you want to protect your hydrangeas from cold, cover them with horticultural fleece – which will.

Hydrangea Flowers
What’s the point of leaving on faded flower heads?

“Plant your tulip bulbs in November” – Why? Apparently, it is believed, that planting when the soil is cooler in late autumn prevents tulips from infection by tulip fire disease (Botrytis tulipae). Well, I’ve spoken to a few seasoned, experienced commercial tulip bulb producers and they can’t find any evidence that later planting has any effect. So plant your tulips at the same time as all your other spring-flowering bulbs. But if you plant them where tulip fire has been a problem in recent years, your new plants will become infected whenever you plant them – the disease remains dormant in the soil for several years! If you have any gardening myths of your own that you’ve busted – I’d love to hear them.

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