I mentioned in a past blog that as a gardener at Wellfield, we often get asked what we do in the winter. Obviously, the growing season is the busiest for us, and all our gardening work definitely slows down while it is cold. A lot of our winter season is spent clearing snow to keep the garden paths safe for guests. Otherwise, we also do a lot of winter pruning and plan garden changes. For this post, I am simply going to give a little bit of insight to what we spend our time doing throughout the winter.
We start our winter pruning in January and finish in March. The biggest reason we do not prune every tree and shrub during the growing season is we just do not have enough time. Pushing some of the pruning back into winter gives us time to take care of the hedges and shrubs around the garden that begin to look unkempt if left alone too long. Unfortunately, this leads to removing some of the flower buds that may be attached to the branches that are removed. Most flower buds are saved because we mostly remove dead, dying, or broken branches from the trees. We only occasionally remove a healthy living branch, usually when it is competing with another healthy living branch.
The ideal time to prune woody plants depends on the type of plant that is being pruned. It is always best to prune a species at the “correct” time of year. This is definitely a lot easier said than done. The best advice for timing aesthetic pruning that I have heard is a saying that our Japanese garden consultant told me. It is along the lines of, “Prune when your secateurs are sharp”. Essentially, get pruning done when you can get it done. For us, the winter works best for most of our simple maintenance pruning on our trees.
We spend our time growing new plants at this time of year as well. If you have visited the Island Garden in the past year, you might have noticed patches of ground cover not quite covering the ground. In order to fill those spots in, we take cuttings of those plants to root them and grow them into healthy plants. The cuttings are kept moist until we get roots and then are planted into pots. They stay in pots to grow until the growing season begins and then are used to fill in the spots of missing ground cover. The plants are not very demanding, just requiring a bit of water each week and we end up with 100+ (116 this year) new plants. The number sounds significant, but it does not go nearly as far as I wish it did. This is also the time of year we spend on planning next year’s vegetable gardens, planning changes to the gardens and discussing future gardens.
I hope this sheds some light on a little bit of what goes on when no one sees us out in the gardens. Each month is a little different, but this gives a snapshot of what is going on at the moment. For now, there will be a lot of pruning going on in the gardens (when it stops snowing of course). Next time, I might let everyone in on some of the projects I worked on in January, or maybe that will be a fun surprise for summer.
Cody Hoff, Lead Horticulturist