Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland




Pleasure from the leaves

PLANTS which keep their leaves in winter are often worth more than the flamboyant herbaceous plants which disappear completely when conditions are grim.

They give pleasure all the year round, give a reason for walking in the garden in winter and help to present a picture from the house.

Hot, sandy or gravel soils which cause concern in dry summers often provide the most furnished areas in winter, apart from an absence of flowers in several winter months.

Perfect examples are Viburnum Tinus, Laural, Photinia, Rhododendrons, Conifers and Holly etc. These will also provide a windbreak and will give a great structure to the garden through the winter.

The garden's greatest enemy is wind and this month often proves to be the stormiest. You cannot stop the wind, but you can slow it down and you can create microclimate in your garden. Fences, walls and artificial screens will affect this, up to a point, but the best way is with plants.

Hedges are excellent windbreaks and grow far more quickly than you might imagine, especially if you nurse them with a temporary fence or shelter screen while they develop.

Groups of trees and shrubs also make great shelter devices and have the added advantage of reducing noise. Plant densely at first, but be prepared to thin out later. The best time to plant shelter trees, hedges or any woody plant, for that matter, is now.

When pruning or tidying shrubs and, in some cases trees, you can take young growths that have developed in the past growing season and root them as cuttings. This works especially well with willows, poplars and, apparently, with mulberries. It is also a handy and almost effortless way of propagating roses and shrubs.

All you do is cut off young, vigorous wands and push them, thick end first, into a piece of fertile ground, preferably out off the wind and in shade. Next spring, when the buds break and shoots begin to grow, cut the wands back to within two or three buds up from the ground. The young plants should be well-rooted and ready to transplant the following autumn