Action plan: Nigel Colborn’s essential jobs for your garden this week
PLANT BARE-ROOT SHRUBS AND TREES
The planting season lasts until March, but the sooner you can get young shrubs or trees into the ground, the sooner they will settle.
You will need sticks or support stakes, tree ties and the strength to dig a substantial hole for each tree or shrub. If possible, have a product such as Rootgrow or other mycorrhizal additives to add to the planting hole.
Bare-rooted plants tend to be larger than containerised ones, often with better, looser root systems. Most tree, shrub and rose nurseries offer such plants online or by mail order between October and March.
Nigel Colborn says now is the time if you want to move or plant woody plants
When your plant order arrives, unpack it at once. If your ground is not yet ready for planting, dig a temporary hole or a shallow trench. Unwrap the roots of the plants and get those straight into the ground. Cover them at once, before any of the roots have dried.
Tall shrubs or young trees can be heeled in at an angle or with trunks secured to a temporary but sturdy support.
When planting shrubs or trees, dig the holes before you unwrap each plant or before lifting plants that were heeled in. If dealing with containerised plants, remove the pot after preparing the hole. If necessary, tease out congested roots, spreading them to fill the hole.
Containerised plants are widely available and highly convenient. Success rates with them are also high. But bare-root nursery stock has been able to develop better root systems.
FEAST FOR BIRDS
Please remember the birds. Asters, tall sedums and other summer plants carry plenty of seeds, which are vital for seed-eating birds such as goldfinches and sparrows. Dying vegetation also harbours insects and spiders food for wrens, titmice, robins, pictured, and other insect-eating birds. So if you leave those untouched for now, the birds will flourish.
DIVIDE LATE PERENNIALS
Nigel chose Prunus Incisa ‘Kojo-No-Mai as this week’s plant
As summer and autumn perennials go dormant, it’s time to split any that are showing their age. Lift entire plants, shaking soil from the roots. For re-planting, take divisions or splits from the outsides of the clumps. Those are the youngest and will rapidly develop into mature plants. Throw the middles of the clumps away. Those are aged and will lack vigour. When re-planting, I prefer to place three or five small divisions in a close group, rather than a single larger clump. This ensures a good first year display and a lovely big clump for the following couple of years.
PLANT OF THE WEEK: PRUNUS INCISA ‘KOJO-NO-MAI’
No apologies for revisiting this charming little cherry. Grown as a dwarf tree, it looks pretty in all seasons. The stiff, twiggy branches tend to grow in a loose, shuttlecock shape, making an attractive winter outline. In early spring, branches are laden with small, pale pink flowers. When their petals fall, foliage soon begins to open with a coppery cast, quickly turning green. In autumn, each leaf flushes first to rust, later intensifying into rich, burning red. They carry colour for a week or two longer if the weather stays calm creating a brief, fiery carpet after falling.
After bringing my pelargoniums into the greenhouse, some of the leaves began to be eaten. After a search, I discovered the culprit: a large brown caterpillar. What is it and how do I get rid of it?
Mrs R. Hutchins.
You’ve discovered the Cabbage Moth, Mamestra brassicae. The caterpillars grow about 50mm long before pupating: they’re common greenhouse pests, feeding voraciously at night, so visit your greenhouse after dark with a torch. The larvae will then be easy to remove and destroy. In a way, it’s a shame because they’re handsome insects.