Monthly Masterclass: August


Do it: prune wall trained fruit

Pruning new shoots, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Monthly Masterclass: August

Prune new shoots to three leaves above the basal cluster

Step 1

Wall trained or growth restricted fruit trees such as espalier, fan and cordon trained apples, pears and plums should be pruned in late summer exposing ripening fruit to additional light and air. Pruning should only take place once the bottom third of the current year’s growth has stiffened and turned woody. Pruning too early will result in rapid re-growth of unwanted and unproductive wood. All new shoots should be pruned to 3 leaves above the basal cluster (a tight whorl of leaves or buds at the base of the shoot), excepting those less than 20 cm long which usually terminate in a fruiting bud.


Suckers from a grafted rootstock, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Monthly Masterclass: August

Remove suckers emerging from a grafted rootstock at the base

Step 2

Small stems growing behind training wires or from the rootstock at the base can also be removed completely. Cut using the full length of your secateurs blade. Using just the tip will likely tear rather cut cleanly, creating a possible entry point for disease. Leaving a small number of ‘dummy’ branches will continue to draw sap upwards and prohibit vigorous re-growth following pruning. Any regrowth can simply be removed again in autumn after leaf fall. This can then be followed much later, in winter, with a more structural prune to thin overcrowded spurs, reduce the height of overgrown trees, or remove old wood.


Apple, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Monthly Masterclass: August

Thin weak, diseased and overcrowded fruit for a better crop

Step 3

Some fruit will be shed naturally in June (June drop). Where fruit remains crowded it should also be thinned when summer pruning. This will result in a diminished crop but one which produces individual fruits of a much greater quality. First remove those fruits which are showing obvious signs of damage by pests and diseases such as holes, scab or mould. Next, those which are rubbing against each other should be separated from their neighbour before small, weak fruits are removed to make room for strong and vigorous growers. Those trees exhibiting signs of stress, such as leaf drop, or infestations of pests like woolly aphid, should be kept clean at the base and well watered to aid recovery.


Grow it: bamboo

What: Bamboo are evergreen perennials producing tall woody stems called culms atop thick rhizomatous roots. A member of the grass family (Poaceae) bamboos will either run or clump. Runners can be extremely invasive if left unrestricted whilst clumpers are much better behaved.

Where: Most bamboos will suffer in exposed sites and in particular dislike soils which remain either permanently wet or dry. For best results plant in a moist but well drained soil with some shelter from the wind and plenty of sun.

How: Running bamboos can be constrained when planted inside a physical barrier such as a root barrier fabric. Be sure to overlap joints well to eliminate gaps. All restrictive material should be left 7.5cm proud of the soil to prevent rhizomes from ‘jumping’ and disguised with decorative mulch. Plant with additional organic matter, feed with a balanced fertiliser when in growth, and water regularly during dry spells.

When: Plant in spring for a full flush of fresh culms in the following summer. Those species with brightly coloured culms look best when the lower leaves are removed with secateurs in late summer. Ageing culms, dulling in colour should be removed at the same time but never more than one third in a year.

Thinning bamboo, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Monthly Masterclass: August

Volunteers Angela (l) and Janet (r) thin the black culms of Phyllostachys nigra

The Gardener’s Verdict:

“Many people have heard about the problems with bamboo; how it spreads with its tough, vigorous roots which can break their way into pipes or under paths, and how painful it can be to get rid of.

Yet, bamboos are very versatile plants; they can look great in a modern garden, with taller specimens providing clean lines (if you keep the lower culms tidy), or shorter cultivars providing a dense block of foliage.

They can look a bit odd if you have a cottage garden style planting (lots of softly rounded herbaceous plants) and then you puncture those rounded shapes with one ramrod straight bamboo plant; you need to find a way of repeating its strong, vertical lines.

Bamboos move with the wind and the play of light and shade, as well as the gentle rustling of the leaves add an extra dimension to the garden. They can be planted as a solitary, dramatic statement, or used with lots of different shapes of foliage to create a lush tropical feel.

I am very fond of the black bamboo – Phyllostachys nigra. It is popular and well known for several reasons; it has beautiful black culms, is a very tidy looking plant, and does not spread rapidly.

Shibataea kumasaca will do well in a pot as long as you remember to give it acid (ericaceous) potting compost and lots of water in the growing season! It can get up to 2m tall, but rarely exceeds 1m. It is a lovely, delicate looking plant.

Grasses can make similarly dramatic feature plants if you would rather a less vigorous alternative; there are clump forming species of varying sizes. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ has a lovely cream variegation to its leaves and can also be grown in a container.

Plant a bamboo in the wrong place? A mattock, a sharp spade, a good thick pair of gloves and lots of patience seemed to work for me! Be prepared to leave the area fallow for a while before re-planting. ”

Abby Gulliver, Glasshouse Area Supervisor, Winterbourne House and Garden


Californian tree poppy, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Monthly Masterclass: August

Californian tree poppy

Read it: Monthly Masterclass: July

Don’t let the professionals have all the fun! Read last month’s Monthly Masterclass: July and find out how to grow your own Californian tree poppy, add some bling to your borders, and keep box blight at bay when hedge cutting in summer.

Bamboo – love them or hate them? Let us know using the comments box below or share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter using the icons at the top and bottom of the page.

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