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Weekend work: Time to prune your roses


What to do

* It’s time to prune your roses. Start by cutting out dead wood, then any spindly stems and suckers. That will be enough for most old-fashioned shrub roses though Hybrid Musks, such as 'Buff Beauty' get leggy and unkempt if left to their own devices. Shorten some of the longest growths by a third and take out any thin, spindly stems which are unlikely to bear flowers.

* Hybrid teas need sterner treatment: follow each stem up from the bottom until you come to a likely looking outward-facing bud and cut the stem off above the bud. That is the tidy way. The quick way is to shear over the top of hybrid tea roses with a hedge clipper.

*Boost tired box hedges with a dressing of some general fertiliser, such as Growmore or Vitax Q4. Use roughly 60g/2oz for every metre of hedge. If box hedges have got hideously leggy, try cutting them back hard, leaving no more than 10-13cm/ 4-5in of stem. Feed when they show signs of resprouting. They may not. Box is not so forgiving as yew.

What to buy

* Peter Blest’s new list of secondhand books on botany and rural life is full of treasures. I limited myself to two titles, but it was hard. You can get Christopher Grey-Wilson’s monograph on cyclamen for £15 (£30 when new), a 1903 edition of Gertrude Jekyll’s book on lilies (£24), Remarks on the Mangel Wurzel (I was very tempted by this one) written in 1828 by a Mr Newby and yours for £15.

Catalogues are available from Mr Blest by writing to: Little Canon Cottage, Wateringbury, Maidstone, Kent ME 18 5PJ. Alternatively, you can request a catalogue by phone on 01622 812940 or by email, pmblest@aol.com