Gardening: Cuttings

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The Independent Culture
THE SOCIETY of Garden Designers is to hold an autumn symposium on 9 October. William Waterfield, the third generation of his family to garden at Clos du Peyronnet, near Menton in France, starts the proceedings by talking about Riviera gardens at the turn of the century, when a swath of well-heeled English gardeners had winter retreats on the French and Italian coast.

John Brookes, one of this country's most thoughtful and effective designers, tackles the important question of a garden's setting. Our landscape is extraordinarily varied and beautiful. Do we think about it enough when we make a garden, and reflect and respect the true spirit of the place?

In the afternoon Valerie Strong, an American landscape architect with a practice in Hudson, Ohio, considers the American garden and its place in contemporary thought. Jean-Paul Pigeat brings the day to a close with his views on Chaumont, the French garden festival I wrote about recently.

The symposium is to be held at Birmingham University; tickets cost pounds 96.50. Details: the Society of Garden Designers, 14/15 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PS (0171-838 9311; fax: 0171-838 9322.

JUDITH WALL, from Leigh-on-Mendip, near Bath, is worried about her `Nevada' rose. She planted it 10 years ago in rich, loamy soil and it flourished. She added a mauve-blue `Etoile de Paris' clematis next to it and was even more pleased.

But this year, she writes, "I noticed that the `Nevada' was flowering less, and then it lost a lot of leaves. It was then obvious there was a lot of old wood and few new shoots. So what do I do? I have read that cutting back a `Nevada' rose drastically hardly ever works. But I wondered whether I might give this a try this autumn, cutting back the clematis at the same time, to give `Nevada' a chance to rejuvenate. But if this doesn't work, I'll be left with a large hole next June and be bereft. Or, I bid it farewell, cut it down and dig it out. Could I then plant a new `Nevada' in the same place and hope for success?"

The last option would be the worst, I think. Roses do not flourish if replanted in the same spot as an old one, even if you dig out the earth and import fresh soil. I think Ms Wall's rose will come round. I planted a `Nevada' rose in 1980 and it has had some hiccups, but has always recovered.

I have not heard that cutting back `Nevada' drastically is a mistake. Most years I take out one old branch entirely, and the rose has not punished me yet. Most shrub roses I've grown have responded to this.

I would not cut the whole thing to the ground. Ms Wall should take out some of the hoariest old wood at ground level, or where the branch joins a main trunk. Then she needs to mulch the rose well this autumn, with the heaviest muck she can find. It should not lack for water, either, especially next spring.

It would be a good idea to relieve the rose temporarily of its burden of `Etoile de Paris'. Although this clematis should generally be pruned only lightly, it will not mind being cut back. Next spring, the shoots will be even more vigorous, juicy and tempting than usual. They will need protection against slugs.

Of course, there is always the possibility that Ms Wall's `Nevada' has picked up honey fungus or some such incurable disease. But she should be optimistic. Leaf loss seems fairly normal with this rose. Mine looks ghastly now, with foliage either crispy brown or gone altogether. But I have learnt to trust in its capacity to reinvent itself. I hope Ms Wall's is equally bouncy.

Anna Pavord