This weekend we took a trip with my family to the National Botanic Gardens, Wales, and I came away with another birthday gift from my Mum and Dad.
This stunning cornus alba hedgerow (please forgive its rather incongruous surroundings) has variegated cream and green leaves that blush a deep red at this time of year, on handsome dark red stems. Cutting it back hard in March should encourage strong growth of these lovely stems for a striking display next winter.
It’s currently taking shelter on a breeze block amid the debris at the side of the house until we find it a permanent place in the emerging garden. As for the botanic gardens, I took hundreds of photos, which I shall try to edit down for a post (or two!) later in the week.
King of the Hill further enjoyed the sunshine this weekend to take a saw to our birch tree which stands along the south border of our garden next to the shed and was rather dominating the plot. Late autumn to midwinter is the ideal time to prune birches, which have a tendency to bleed heavily if pruned when the sap is rising. Some hard pruning has opened the tree up and brought it back to a more manageable size and graceful shape, cutting it back to one central leader, with its two gnarled side-trunks cut back – and not a drop of sap. We shall take these right back to the main trunk next weekend to encourage a more slender graceful form. Thick ropes of ivy branches still twist around the trunk of the tree, which we also need to clear to reveal its papery bark in all its glory. Another task for next weekend.
Last year, my parents bought us a sapling of another birch, betula utilis var. jacquemontii Trinity College, which we intend to plant a little closer to the house along the same border. Its gleaming white stem as it matures should form a wonderful backdrop to the winter fire of the cornus stems. I love the light foliage of these trees in summer too.