Roddy Llewellyn's November garden

PUBLISHED: 13:37 18 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:59 20 February 2013

Roddy Llewellyn’s November garden

Roddy Llewellyn’s November garden

"Take your time - a sawn off branch cannot be stuck on again"

Its time to cut back

By November I am resigned to winter, dark evenings and the cold, and thats that. Theres nothing I can do to change our climate so I plan my life accordingly. That is my theory anyway. In practice I dream of hot summer days and wonder why I havent up-sticks and gone to live in a warmer country. I then realise I would hate to live in a part of the world where there are no changing seasons. The landscape would scarcely change. There would never be that excitement of ice on the pond, a glittering hoar frost on seedheads on sunny days or the scrunch of a frozen puddle underfoot.

Throughout the winter a mild day will give you the excuse to prune deciduous trees to shape, to cut off wayward branches that cast too much shadow on plants below, to open up the centre of a tree or to remove crossing and overcrowded branches.There are a few basic rules. Take your time. Study the shape of the tree carefully before touching it a sawn off branch cannot be stuck on again. In any one year you should not remove more than one third of a tree in order to reduce the likelihood of stress. In the case of badly neglected trees which need a heavy prune I always leave them alone for two seasons afterwards to give them time to recover before I remove any further unwanted growth. When removing a branch in its entirety you must always cut it off close to the trunk (about one inch proud), although part of a branch can be removed so long as you cut back to an established joint which will then take over as leader. Never cut a branch half way along where there is no other growth as this will result in the rest of it dying or worse, producing a mass of new shoots on the cut which ruin the whole appearance of the tree.

Theres plenty of time to plant lilies, from November until early April. As a general rule most lilies prefer acid soils, but there are exceptions, most noticeably the Martagon lily or Turkscap. Its tolerance of a wide range of soils is legendary and it is therefore no coincidence it is found growing in the wild in more areas of the world than any other lily species. It grows so well in the UK it can be planted practically anywhere except in boggy or badly drained soils, conditions that all lilies will not tolerate. They look best planted in informal groups in a wild garden or in the semi-shade in the lawn. Dont be in a hurry to dig them up if they do nothing in their first year. This is especially relevant to stored bulbs which can spend their first season putting down roots while providing little if any evidence of top growth. As strength builds up in the bulbs the stems tend to grow higher and the amount of flowers, that range in colour from ivory white, mauve to dark maroon, increase in number per stalk.They resent disturbance but if you have to move them the best time is just after they have flowered. Martagon lilies do tend to seed themselves around. As garden escapees they have naturalised in many parts of the country as a result.

If youre looking for a deciduous, vigorous, ornamental climber with large, handsome leaves with a rich autumn display you need look no further than Vitis coignetiae. This vine does not produce any edible fruits but it makes up for this deficiency with its foliage.It is the perfect choice if you have an ugly wall or fence to cover although on such flat surfaces it will need strong wires upon which to affix itself with its strong tendrils. It looks spectacular at this time of year when allowed to scramble up a tall tree, especially an evergreen when its leaves, just like those of Virginia creeper, contrast so well against a dark background especially when the sun shines through them.

From November 9 to 11 Roddy is giving talks on pruning.
Visit and click on lectures.

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