Gardening: Cuttings: Weekend work

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WILD wind and rain have turned the garden into a dreary landscape of swirling leaves and collapsed perennials. This was not a summer to grow asters, which had only a brief season before they began to ball and rot in the wet. I have been ripping them out and replacing them with stocks. At least they did not need watering in.

A couple of trees, such as the big Prunus 'Tai Haku', have had sickly leaves this summer. It is often difficult to tell whether this is due to iron or manganese deficiency. As a rough guide, iron deficiency is more likely to show up on leaves at the growing tips of the branches. Either way, trees and shrubs needing treatment should be marked now before the leaves disappear altogether. In February, use sequestered iron or manganese to correct the problem.

Shrubs growing on heavily alkaline soil might also be showing signs of chlorosis. The long-term solution is to mulch heavily around the shrub with leaf mould or pine needles to reduce the alkalinity of the soil. Ground and composted bark is also efficient.

The good thing about the rain is that in the dry bits in between you can play musical chairs with plants that have not been showing themselves to best advantage in the garden. Herbaceous perennials are best cut down before being moved. Shrubs such as rhododendrons and camellias, which have compact root balls, shift very easily. Roses are best left until they are dormant.

Winter window-boxes can be planted up when the summer display has been cleared out. Winter flowering pansies give a long season of flower and look good mixed with trailing kinds of variegated ivy. Mix extra grit with the planting compost to compensate for the winter wet.