Monthly Masterclass: February


Do it – pruning Wisteria

Pruning Wisteria - removing whippy shoots coming from the base

Remove whippy shoots coming from the base altogether

Step 1

Tackle your Wisteria now to get the best flowering display in May. First, you must decide if you wish to remove any old or unproductive wood. Cut failing growth right back to the central framework of your plant taking care not to damage new growth you intend to train as a replacement. Pay particular attention to anything growing vigorously from the base. This will likely be coming from a less floriferous, but vigorous, grafted rootstock and must be cut away immediately.

Prune the remainning whippy shoots to 2 or 3 buds

Prune the remaining whippy shoots to 2 or 3 buds

Step 2

Next, those whippy shoots you pruned to 5 or 6 buds in the summer should now be pruned again to 2 or 3. Summer pruning allows light and air to ripen the wood giving your Wisteria a better chance of producing flowers further down the line. It also stops long, unruly growths from strangling neighbouring plants or damaging buildings. However, if you missed this summer prune, it is still better to prune in winter alone than nothing at all, ensuring that future flowers emerge free of competition.

Pruning Wisteria - checking ties

Check that ties have plenty of give and are not strangling the plant

Step 3

Where previously untamed Wisteria have been heavily pruned, it is usual to experience a diminished flowering display. If this poor show continues after successive seasons, despite the correct pruning regime, it is possible that inferior flowering material from the rootstock has become dominant during a period of neglect. Here, it is wise to replace the under-performing plant with a named cultivar from a trusted nursery. Resist the urge to grow your own from seed, which unlike grafted stock, can take many years to reach flowering maturity.


Grow it: Galanthus

What: Galanthus, or snowdrops, are diminutive bulbs which form naturalised drifts when they are happy. Each bulb produces a nodding white bell-shaped flower, usually in winter, often with interesting green markings on their inner petal-like tepals.

Where: Galanthus thrive best when planted in moist open ground beneath dappled shade with a healthy supply of leaf mould. They will also grow happily in sparse, thin lawns, but only reluctantly in pots which can dry out too rapidly.

How: Galanthus establish more successfully when planted ‘in the green’ just after flowering before their foliage has died down. Dried bulbs are much less successful. Either way, once planted, little else is required.

Galanthus nivalis

Galanthus nivalis in the Key Hole Bog

When: Plant green bulbs in March and dried bulbs, if no other option is available, as soon as they appear on shelves in autumn. March is also a good time to sow fresh seed for many species which should germinate later in spring as temperatures rise.

The Gardener’s Verdict:

“For many gardeners the snowdrop mania which sweeps the country in February is a long awaited highlight of the gardening year, announcing the end of a dreary lifeless winter and the beginning of a hope filled spring. And yet, with some clever planting, the snowdrop can span both of these seasons and even make a welcome appearance in autumn. Galanthus reginaeolgae will often flower in October or November. Although it is admittedly not easy to cultivate, preferring a warmer spot to most. More accommodating cultivars, such as G. ‘Magnet’ and G. ‘Washfield Warham’, will extend the season the other way flowering into March.

Of course, there are many other cultivars available each with its own distinctive markings or habit. For the connoisseur, these subtle variations can command extraordinary prices. My advice is to avoid anything with a serious price tag. The best cultivars will inevitably enter the mass market at a reasonable price as producers increase production of those varieties proven to grow reliably well in ordinary garden conditions. A large drift of strong but commonly seen snowdrops is a far cheerier sight than a solitary, cosseted rarity, struggling unhappily in a pot.

Like blue roses, yellow snowdrops, or at least ones with yellow markings, remain a tantalising challenge for breeders. Many cultivars appear with yellow ovaries at the top of the flower as well as little splashes of yellow at the base. But surely the snowdrop has been granted so much horticultural clemency because of the clarity of its white, crisp and clear against bare winter earth? For a true yellow, without any of the insipid yolky-ness of these novelties, plant Eranthis hyemalis, the winter aconite instead, which thrives in the same moist woodland conditions.

Such is the simplicity of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, that it desires an equally unfussy companion. Low growing, well-behaved ivy, such as Hedera helix ‘Anita’, provides an appropriately understated foil. The strappy black leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ perform similarly well, if not a little more dramatic. For busier mixed borders, taller more robust species, such as Galanthus elwesii, can hold their own against other substantial perennials including Bergenia and Helleborus.”

Daniel Cartwright, Outdoor Area Supervisor, Winterbourne House and Garden


Read it: Snapshot: Snow

There was so little of it you may be forgiven for missing the snow which briefly transformed Winterbourne early one mid-January morning. Luckily we captured it on camera before it melted and disappeared. You can see it for yourself in this month’s ‘Snapshot: Snow’.

The Walled Garden, 13th January 2017

The Walled Garden, 13th January 2017


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