Gardening: Keeping shrubs under controlBy Linda Fort
September 14, 2012
The last 45 minutes in the garden have been spent doing something I simply hate.
I have been clipping bits off shrubs, making them look like miserable horticultural poodles.
In an ideal world I would let all my shrubs grow freely, taking on their natural size and shape, only intervening to cut out the bits that have died.
In the absence of that ideal world, that policy could prevail provided the right shrub has been planted in the right place with sufficient space to fulfil its glorious potential.
In my garden, that would presuppose that I knew just how big a shrub was going to grow and that it was not planted by someone who lived in the house before me.
In truth, most of the disastrous plantings in the garden are my doing and now I must dig them up or deal with the consequences.
So, this morning, shrubby poodles abound in the front garden which had, as usual, taken on the appearance of Sleeping Beauty’s castle – windows disappearing behind the sprouting fronds of a Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’.
It used to be such a pretty thing, winding up over the front of the house, but now it makes a formless lump between the upstairs and downstairs windows.
When it is covered with clusters of pale yellow fragrant roses in May, it is the most charming plant in the garden.
So it most be tolerated – like some querulous Dickensian maiden aunt needing constant attention to reassure her of her fading beauty.
The poodle-clipping has also extended to a couple of evergreen shrubs which really should not have been touched at this time of year.
No doubt there will be a little regrowth before the winter sets in and then, through my living room window, I will be able to watch those little shoots burned to a crisp brown by the first frost.
The myrtle (Myrtus communis) grows to 1.5metres, which is just a little too tall to sit comfortably under the window, and a Choisya ternata a little further from the window has to be kept at about chest-height to allow the light into the living room.
The looming foliage viewed from my sofa is generally reassuring and, at the moment, I can watch the bees happily visiting the blue flowers on a Caryopteris x clandonensis.
This graceful shrub can – like the amenable buddleia – be clipped almost to the ground each spring and so it never outgrows its space and never gets to look like a poodle.
And the buddleia by my front door is repaying my deheading efforts by flowering all over again with new, but this time tiny, flowers.
These two shrubs at least have not taken on the detestable lumpy dome-shape.
But some serious rethinking is needed or the whole front garden will look like a neatly packed egg box before long.