It is always good to have your approach or views challenged and sometimes those challenges creep up on you unexpectedly. This weekend, having been encouraged out into the garden to take some photos for my Six on Saturday post I found myself pottering around for an hour accompanied by the under-gardener.
One of the jobs I wanted to tackle was trimming the stems of the Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ or what I call the Zig-Zag bamboo. It’s a practice I adopted a couple of years back so that the wonderful golden zig-zag stems of the bamboo are showcased. It’s a fiddly job and best done in the winter as the new shoots start to appear along the stems; if you catch the new shoots early enough you can reduce the amount of knobbly bits and have cleaner stems. I have to admit it’s quite a satisfying job and ideal for a cold day when the ground is too cold for digging or planting. After a bit of work you can clearly see a result for your work.
I also remove the leaves from hellebores and cut back epimediums (not the Japanese ones) in January in order to allow the flowers to show. Of course in nature this doesn’t happen and it is purely a human intervention in order to show off a plant. Interestingly, I was surprised some time ago to discover that some gardeners remove the flowers from hostas as they grow the hostas for the leaves and they felt the flowers compromised the effect and I have always smiled at those who pressure wash the stems of birch in the winter to show off the white bark. So there is no consistently in my approach.
While I was snipping away at the bamboo stems and admiring the sea of honesty foliage growing around the bamboo I started to wonder where the idea of removing the shoots had come from and given how much tidying up I had to do in the garden why was I spending time undertaking a purely cosmetic task. My questioning continued when one of the commentators on my last post described the joy of hellebores with the flowers hidden amongst the leaves and this really got me thinking.
I suppose it comes down to what effect you want to achieve in your garden and what is more important to you. Do you grow the plants to focus on one particular element: flowers, stems, bark, leaves? Or do you grow the plants to create an overall impact? Or, like me, do you have a more random approach picking out those plants which are maybe more important to you or actually those you can see best from the living room window!