Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Wrap up your plants

OUR first response to all the recent snowfall is that it looks enchanting, but just as the frost, ice and

OUR first response to all the recent snowfall is that it looks enchanting, but just as the frost, ice and snow cause disruption and potential hazard on the roads so, too, do they affect our gardens.

Plants most susceptible to damage by snow are often architectural. These include Dicksonia antarctica (tree ferns), Phormiums (New Zealand flax), Astelia, Fatsia japonica, Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan palm) or Gunnera manicata (giant rhubarb).

Bay trees (Laurus nobilis) can suffer severe scorching to their leaves and if the bark is frozen this can cause the cells to burst, creating splitting and fragmentation, which can prove fatal to the plant. This is more evident in topiary forms — where the core stem is not protected — than in its natural “feathered” form.

The lavender is another plant that needs protecting. Because the stems are quite brittle, the weight of the snow often causes breakage — more so if the plants have not been pruned, as lanky stems are more susceptible to breakage than compact, pruned ones.

My advice to all would be to shake off the snow on a daily basis from susceptible and tender specimens (Pittosporums also come to mind).

Plants that have been potted and are small enough to be handled manually should be moved under cover. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a greenhouse, place them in an area in your garden which is more protected.

The larger specimens can be covered with horticultural fleece, bubble wrap or even large plastic bin liners.Make sure you check them daily though, to shake off any excess snow and replace the covering again in the evening.

Use a soft bristle broom for larger specimens or hedging. Do not leave plastic on plants indefinitely as that, too, will cause damage as plants need light and air to remain healthy. If you use natural products such as straw or hessian to protect the crowns of tree ferns or Gunnera manicata you should just leave them covered throughout the winter, but it is still advisable to at least brush off the bulk of the snow to reduce not only the weight, but also the chill.

Phormiums and Astelia benefit from being tied up into a bunch, to prevent the snow splaying the plant and causing rot to the basal crown.

If it’s a particularly large plant (and depending on the variety they can be), it might be a two-person task with the use of rope. It is worth checking all plant supports and ties in your garden, in particular, those of all your climbers.

Submersible pumps in ponds should remain on and you could float a tennis ball or two on the surface to prevent a solid freeze. For large ponds, Styrofoam (provided it is large and chunky) works equally well, but do tether securely and anchor with rope to the bank so you can retrieve it more readily as soon as the weather turns mild.

Whatever you do decide to do in your garden, do stay safe — and take extra care.

With an eye for detail, Louise Venter has a lifetime’s experience in horticulture, extensive plant knowledge and is a practising Garden Designer. Her sensitivity to the environment, style and age of each property and attentive consideration of her clients’ brief is evident in all her projects, both large and small.

For more details call: 07803 583687, email louise_venter@yahoo.co.uk, or visit www. louiseventergardendesign.com

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