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CLEMATIS cutdown.

Byline: BY TOBY MUSGRAVE The TV Gardener

IF you have ordered and received bare-root roses, plant them out, just so long as the ground isn't frozen.

Otherwise, take them out of the plastic packaging, wrap the roots in newspaper, tie with string and store in a bucket of water in a frost-free and cool place.

But don't plant where you've previously had roses, as they can suffer from replanting disease.

During the dormant season, many species such as Acanthus (Bear's Britches), Aesculus (Horse Chestnut), Aralia, Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince), Eryngium (Sea Holly), Papaver (Poppy) Romneya (Californian Poppy) and Spiraea can be propagated by taking root cuttings.

It is still OK to lift and move dormant plants around the garden - but make sure to get as big a root ball as possible, as long as the soil is not frozen or waterlogged. If you have seen places in the garden where water is standing, improve the drainage by digging in a mix of well rotted horse manure and sharp sand - half a barrow and quarter of a barrow of each respectively per square metre. You can use coarse grit as an alternative to sand, but it's much more expensive.

If you avoided cutting back perennials and ornamental grasses to allow birds to feed on the seeds and to get a winter show, now is the time to do so, so that they get a good start in spring.

Take a peek at any Dahlia and Canna tubers you lifted in the autumn and are storing in a cool frost-free place.

They must not dry out completely and if they are too dry, give them an hour or so in a bucket of water, dry and replace in storage.

It's time to cut back Group 3 clematis - those that flower in late-summer and autumn flowering - to the lowest pair of strong buds. Also, prune summer flowering shrubs that produce blooms on this coming season's growth to ensure a good show. Cut back last season's growth, remove any damaged or dead branches and thin.

Don't forget to continue to feed the birds, and put water out for them if it is freezing.

ASK TOBY

Q I WANT to know what to do once my bulbs have flowered. Should I dig them up or cut them down?

MR HARRIS, Coventry

A THE answer is to let nature take its course. Once bulbs such as daffodils and other flowers such as tulips and crocus (which are technically corms) have finished blooming, they need their leaves to build up food reserves for next year's flowering.

If you cut off the leaves, they will starve and perform poorly next year. So leave the leaves, and they will naturally die down before summer.

TOP TIPS

AS everything has grown so much, so early, any frost will cause extra damage. Protect any new buds or flower buds with newspaper or a horticultural fleece, but remember to remove every morning.

GIVE winter greens such as spring cabbage and purple sprouting a dose of a quick acting, high nitrogen fertilizer to keep them healthy.

START planting seeds of various annuals and perennials such as penstemons, geranium, lobelia, rudbeckia, French and African marigolds. Use a seed tray and keep protected from the frost.

TO propagate some of your stored dahlia tubers, put them in boxes of damp peat. Once new shoots have appeared, use them as cuttings and pot on. Keep them warm.

SOW onion seeds in seed trays and keep protected from the frosts. The seedlings will go out in April with a good head start.

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PRUNE: if you want your clematis to flower as much as this now is the time to cut them back
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2008
Words:616
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