Grass Clippings

Around our wintry grounds

This week heralds a large change in the weather, with the jet stream pattern curving erratically through Europe and then ascending up through Russia. The indicators are that it’s a weak formation which could potentially create a blocking pattern, channelling cold air down from Scandinavia.

One indicator that cold weather is present ‘Up North’ is the number of reports I have received that there are Waxwings flying over on mass to the UK in search of food to keep them going through the upcoming lean times. This beautiful winter visitor along with Redwings and Fieldfares are currently entertaining themselves with the free buffet in many a hedgerow and garden.

Cold bright days are ahead of us but there is still a threat of snow cropping up on weather forecasts. This is all dependent on the jet stream and if a blocking event occurs which keeps the cold air flowing our way and its effect on the air moisture content. For the Golf and Grounds Teams, this drier period is truly welcome, and we are able to continue our tasks.

We are currently refurbishing the path which spans across the 12th hole. Leaf fall is still a battle that I’m confident the guys are winning. To golfers who venture out during this season my plea is that they repair pitch marks when they play. Due to the weather conditions, the damage a ball hitting a green creates is far greater than in the summer when the green has more resilience. It’s been proven through research that a pitch mark repaired immediately will rebound and heal quicker than if left hours or a day later. An open scar will remain and will not heal while the greens are cold, and growth has slowed. Preserving the surfaces is a priority at this time of the year as it’s so important for the spring and having the greens in the best condition for the main playing season.

Festive fly trap anyone?

With the last wave goodbye to the Halloween pumpkin and heralded by the arrival of a month or so of seasonal television advertising I noticed, while walking around the Club last weekend, the sound of children singing carols or their own earworm version of Christmas songs.

The big guns, the supermarket brands, have been planning this moment probably since last January and is the UK’s closest thing we have to a ‘Super Bowl moment’ in the TV calendar – the coveted commercial space with a subline mixture of smoltz, panto comedy and celebrities to persuade every viewer that the perfect Christmas is possible only with the purchase of their brand of products.

The seasonal sell has is as old as retail itself but with the advent of the first commercial channel to British television, the scope to entertain and advertise brought a whole new world of marketing, with a British twist. As I recall, Woolworths was probably one of the first retailers to produce a celebrity studied commercial for the festive period in the 1970’s, as the decades passed, the humour became more subtle to convey the message that tradition (and the product) was embedded within our culture. The OXO family’s seasonal ad was based on the narrative that we watched the characters grow up and grow old, the values around the family remained the same. The supermarkets muscled in relatively late to the party but with bulging budgets and a chance to capture the nations spending power at the crucial time of the year, pulling out the stops is so very vital, to try and entice customer loyalty to last longer than a turkey past Boxing Day. Every year the nation waits in anticipation for what the big brands will serve up.

The influence of the players is strong, for example this year John Lewis has cultivated a storyline which is centred on an oversized and rather animated Venus Fly Trap plant. A day after the launch of the commercial, an online gardening supplier sold out of real plants of this species completely. They have had to reorder 10,000 from a supplier to try and keep up with demand. Other plant nurseries are also finding an uplift in sales as a result of John Lewis’ TV ad. Christmas cactus and poinsettias are aghast that they will have to take the back seat this year to their more carnivorous cousins. Selling the brand has become an important element in the John Lewis strategy, done with humour and tongue in cheek British quirkiness. Adverts reflect the decade that they are formulated in. What will the current batch say about us to future generations?

To prune or not to prune?

Pruning in the garden is always pretty much a case of the right time for the right plant to keep your trees and shrubs productive and looking great. The basic rules of pruning rely on understanding your plants’ growth cycle. Herbaceous perennials and most summer-flowering shrubs have the ability to produce shoots that will be topped with flowers during the course of a single growing season. By contrast, shrubs, trees, and fruit bushes that bloom in winter or spring carry their flowers on shoots produced from older stems and branches made in previous years. It’s also worth remembering that cutting back woody plants when they’re dormant will tend to promote leafy growth, while shortening vigorous growth in midsummer will keep shrubs and trees more compact and encourage flowering. Those that can be considered now:-

  • Hardy trees, shrubs and fruit bushes can be cut during frost-free weather
  • Clematis, such as viticellas, Clematis orientalis and some of the late-summer flowering hybrids need reducing
  • Thin out branches and fruit spurs of top fruit, such as apples and pears
  • Carry out formative pruning of young hardy shrubs and trees – remove thin, twiggy growth and reduce the remaining growth by half its length to encourage a strong framework of new shoots
  • Summer-flowering shrubs, such as buddleiaHydrangea paniculata and lavatera can be cut back hard in late winter, just before they start into growth in the spring
  • Early to midwinter is your last chance to cut back woody plants prone to ‘bleeding’ sap – such as bircheswalnuts and grapevines – as they bleed if pruned late
  • Prune the dead stems of herbaceous perennials at the end of winter to tidy beds and make way for new spring shoots
  • Cutting back rose bushes – large-flowered (hybrid tea) and cluster-flowered (floribunda) roses – in late winter is crucial for the promotion of strong shoots low down on the plants with a wealth of blooms in summer.

Those which shouldn’t be pruned now are:-

  • Tender shrubs including abutilon, bottlebrush, cistus, Convolvulus cneorum, lavender, leptospermum, phlomis and teucrium.
  • Evergreens such as hebe, escallonia, pieris, pittosporum and rhododendron
  • Cherries, plums and greengages as, at this time of year, cuts can be more susceptible to infection with silver leaf disease.

Peter Bradburn, Golf and Grounds Director