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Holly, vines and applewood

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Bob Flowerdew Bob Flowerdew | 11:21 UK time, Friday, 24 December 2010

holly

What with carol singing and parties my twins are being kept well and truly busy. Even so they’ve found time to ‘help’ daddy decorate the house. I’m quite a traditionalist and love evergreens; I’ve three holly trees by my front gate which supply plenty. Most years they bear berries - not from cunning planning but from a mistle thrush who regards these as his own. Being bigger than most other garden birds he’s able to defend his berries and does so most ably, ensuring I get to pick nice pieces. As do two legged rats regarding my trees as self-service centres. This is theft, though it seems churlish to prosecute. Perhaps I should put out a board stating a pick-your-own price!

In these bleak days I like to bring some flowers indoors and most years garner a good selection, mostly from winter flowering shrubs, but this year has been so bleak most are not showing. Indeed I’ve been forced to buy a Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) to garnish the table - and cheap yet gorgeous it is too.

You know as we’re always trying to persuade querists on Gardeners' Question Time this is just one of those plants it’s futile to try and cajole through to the following year. Although possible it’s very difficult to get them to look good a second season, believe me we’ve all tried. Sometimes you have to admit defeat - these are one shot wonders, expecting more is like expecting a bunch of cut flowers to go on for ever.

Anyway amongst all the seasonal activity real gardening still goes on, there are always my plants to tend under cover. I also like to get the grapevines pruned before the new year; the old boys reckoned it set back the next crop if they were pruned any later. I do enjoy pruning grapes; they’re very forgiving and always come back even if I do get too enthusiastic. Indeed it is hard to over-prune grapes, for as long as there’s at least a stub of young wood with a couple of buds then the next crop is assured.

I do believe most gardeners are not ruthless enough - prune them hard and they do much better than when too much wood is left on them. And the other nice thing about pruning grapes is their prunings smell so sweet as they’re burning.

I’ve a mobile incinerator on an old barrow which I trail along with me, it gets rid of the bits as they’re made, makes wood ash for the garden and keeps me warm all at the same time (and gives me a lovely smokey ‘after-shave’). Of course any older branches thicker than my finger are cut up for my wood stove - it would be a shame to waste them.

Which reminds me; I must dig out those apple wood logs I put aside when a fallen tree was cut up last spring. They will burn well by now and give a most delicious fruity aroma to the whole house.

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