Clearing the vegetable beds in preparation for the first crops of a new year was another area to consider, and there were sessions in the greenhouse with plant propagation in mind.
But perhaps most important of all was a pre-growth pruning check – an inspection of ornamental and fruit-bearing perennials to confirm they’re ready for the season ahead.
Rose fragrances filling the evening air are the epitome of summer for some, but never take their cultivation for granted. Feeding, mulching, dead-heading and pruning are essential.
Pests and diseases lurk nearby and demand some form of action, mechanical, biological or chemical, according to your persuasion.
Pruning varies according to the type of rose, but some general guidance might help.
Ramblers are best pruned after their flowering is completed in late summer to early autumn. Repeat-flowering old roses such as the gallica, centifolia, damask, alba and moss are best simply having growth tipped.
If further pruning is thought necessary, remove no more than one third.
The majority of David Austin’s English roses can be pruned by half in winter, one exception being the Leander group members such as Shropshire Lad, with a third of the season’s growth being removed.
Hybrid tea and cluster-flowered roses have always generated controversy over when they should be pruned.
Some gardeners believe February is the right time, but others wait until March.
One acquaintance always insisted that January 1 worked best for him, but another delayed until April 1 in case a severe frost arrived and damaged soft growth encouraged by a mild March.
My preference is early March, but that’s adjustable depending on the weather pattern of any particular year. It’s best if you act when the buds are plump and just ready to break into leaf.
Nor is there total agreement over how severely these two rose types should be pruned, apart from the realisation that light pruning results in earlier flowering.
This can be used to good advantage. A combination of severe and light treatment in a rose bed can bring continuity of bloom.
Generally speaking, all roses benefit from the removal of dead, diseased or weak growth. Crossing stems are bad news too. They lead to open wounds and entry for pathogens.