Tuesday, January 12, 2010

But...what do you do in the winter?

This is one of the questions that I get asked most frequently after telling people what I do for a living. Our winter season is slow in terms of general garden work (weeding, mowing, and planting). But, our days are filled with other tasks that get put off during the warmer months. Many of our visitors are unaware of the fact that almost ALL our annuals are grown in our greenhouses and over 85% of our perennials. The horticulture staff usually decides upon and orders our annuals for the upcoming season during the month of December. In fact, our spring annuals are already sown and sprouted and our summer annuals will not be far behind. But, don’t panic. There is still plenty of time for you to order your seeds. We order our annual flower and vegetable seeds early because we want to make sure that other discerning gardeners do not “beat us to the punch”. Very often, new varieties or cultivars will be sold out within days of a catalog being mailed. If we want to make sure that the newest pansy or David Austin rose is available, we need to plan early.

January and February can also be very busy months because this is when we do the vast majority of our shrub pruning. Pruning on most shrubs can be done regardless of how cold it is, and this vigorous work helps to keep the gardener warm! If the ground is not frozen, other repairs (such as border iron and walkways) can be done during the winter months when we do not have to worry about foot traffic.

March brings the pruning of our roses (no small task!). We remove climbing roses from the arbors and chains and prune off all dead, diseased, and damaged wood. The roses are then repositioned to avoid rubbing and overlapping canes, and tied back to their supports. This is an arduous task that can take four gardeners close to the entire month of March. The mounds then have to be removed from the hybrid teas before they receive their spring cuts.

On the worst days, staff keeps busy sharpening mower blades, cleaning & oiling pruners, or sharpening shovels and spades. If we’re lucky, the work is finished just as it is time to begin again.

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made by singing: -"Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade.~Rudyard Kipling, "The Glory of the Garden"

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