Renovating Existing Shrub Borders

I hesitate to introduce the thought that on occasions birds or animals can be a nuisance, and even then usually manufacture an excuse for their behaviour. Rabbits can be fenced out, although with enough dogs and cats about the garden only the most foolhardy rodent dare show its teeth. Moles will seek less aromatic pastures if moth balls or creosote are inserted into the runs at intervals.

Voles and woodmice can be evicted in a similar fashion but a resident kestrel employed full time is more effective I have discovered! Bullfinches are the worst pest in this garden, their depredations have killed several full grown cherries and we rarely get any flowers on the others. Short of shooting, the gardener must resort to foul-tasting sprays, or netting the trees.

Heathers, both erica and calluna, should be trimmed with a pair of garden shears immediately the flowers fade. This prevents the plants be, coming straggly and untidy. Sheep perform the same functional pruning in the wild, keeping the heather in hard compact mounds and the picture of health.

Try wherever possible to cut each branch away cleanly, leaving no stumps as these may harbour pests and diseases. This is particularly important with evergreens, magnolias and cherries. Where the complete removal of a branch is not practicable or desirable, always cut to an outward-facing bud, the wound sloping up to leave the bud at the apex.

Important slow-growing shrubs like magnolia, parrotia and hamamelis must be marked so that they are not expelled by accident. Others which transplant readily such as rhododendrons and chamaccyparis can be removed to leave only the bare framework. It is surprising how much easier reclamation proves to be when tackled in a systematic manner. Even more surprising are the things discovered in the overgrown border, from old bicycle frames to the summer house hidden under a mass of Clematis montana and ivy.

When pruning either group becomes necessary it should be so arranged as to encourage and not reduce flowering. Complete the work so that the shrub has the maximum period of growth before the next flowering season comes round. Group one, whose flowers are carried as a climax to the current season's growth, may be pruned at any time during the winter until just before growth begins in the spring. Buddleia davidii and its numerous varieties, Spiraea japonica, caryopteris, hypericum and Hydrangea paniculata flower profusely if cut hard back to within three or four buds of the old wood. If the severity of the pruning is varied in the case of Hypericum patulutn then the time of flowering is staggered. Pruned lightly the flowers come in July on 4-ft. stems, a little harder the first flush opens in August, cut to soil level it makes a dome-shaped mound 18 to 24 in. massed high with flowers.

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