This is the time of year to take hard wood cuttings. We will be making cutting of Dogwoods (Cornus) and our black, red and white current bushes and from Penstemons, and other perennials. We still need to do a good clean-up in the upper greenhouse. The Gorgeous Group will be cleaning the lower greenhouse on Sunday week.

Also in the greenhouse the grape vine just inside the entrance suffered from sooty mould – a sooty coloured fungi on the leaves. Sooty moulds are an indication that a plant has been affected by a sap sucking pest, in this case the scale insect.  Scale insects are small creatures just a few millimetres long with a  protective waxy outer coat. They attach themselves to plant stems, and with their piercing mouth parts they puncture the stem and suck the plant’s sap. They are rather messy eaters and the overflow of their meal called ‘honeydew’ falls onto the leaves making them sticky. It is this sticky sweet substance that attracts sooty moulds. Aphids are also sap sucking insects that have the same effect.

What to do? The best way of getting rid of scale insects is to scrape them off the vine stem using a knife. We will be cleaning the vine stems carefully this week. Then once the critters have been removed there will be nothing nourishing for the sooty moulds and they too will vanish.

Last week we cut back the perennial meadow, and now that we can see what is there it is time to carefully weed it removing any perennial weeds, in this case bindweed, mare’s tail, and couch grass. The bindweed has died back to below ground but it is easy to detect because of its distinctive think white roots which you quickly come across if you disturb the soil where it has been growing. The other thing we will be looking to weed out are any woody weeds such as the tree-mallow (Malva arborea) and the occasional birch seedling. We are removing these because they will easily out compete the other flowers we want to grow in our perennial meadow.

There is an interesting idea called Ecological Succession which looks at how bare rock is gradually broken down by plant roots and the process of soil formation begins. Over time meadow plants gradually give way to more woody plants and are eventually replaced by trees forming forests. By weeding our meadow and removing woody plants we are trying to prevent this process from happening! Follow the link below if you are curious to find out more about ecological succession and soil formation.

This week on Sunday the Border Workshop will be looking at planting design. Fortunately we’re well advanced with our winter preparations so there’s not to much work to do on the border. We’ll be in the greenhouse for much of the session but we’re also going to be looking at handling ornamental grasses and finding examples in the walled garden and pond edge designs in the park.