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Plant swedes for an easy winter win and prune berries ahead of a summer feast

December 3, 2021


Evergreen viburnums are valuable winter plants. Inexpensive native hedges help wildlife. Raise roses from seed. Prune and train cane fruits. Humble swedes and turnips are easy winter vegetables.

1. Evergreen viburnums

Viburnum tinus and its many varieties bear small white flowers in winter and spring, followed by black berries, growing to about 3m. Viburnum davidii, 1.5m tall, has tactile corrugated deep green leaves and blue berries that follow its white flowers. Viburnum cinnamomifolium is taller, at 4m, with three veined leaves, white flowers and blue-black berries. Any reasonable garden soil in sun or shade suits them, including alkaline soils that do not suit rhododendrons. Prune in spring.

2. Native hedges

The beautiful and vibrant dog rose or rose hip (Photo: Jacky Parker/Getty)

Good, inexpensive bare-root native hedging plants for gardens include dog roses, dogwoods, guelder rose, hawthorn, hazel, holly and spindle. Plant in single, or better, double rows, allowing 30cm between plants. Suppress weeds for the first year. Just trim the sides until they reach the desired height, then shear the top. For best berry crops, prune lightly or informally. Ideally prune half one year and the remainder the following year. This retains more berrying shoots.

3. Rose seeds

Species roses including native dog roses are easy to raise from seed and “come true”. Garden rose seedlings are seldom good, but you never know. Spread ripe hips in a seed tray then cover with horticultural sand. Leave the tray outdoors for the weather to work on the hips. In spring, “squidge” the sandy, fruity pulp and sow in seed trays of gritty potting compost or a row in the veg plot. Germination may take two years, so prepare to be patient.

4. Cane-fruit pruning

Prune out cane-fruits to promote new growth (Photo: Mike Powles/Getty)

Blackberries, raspberries and loganberries mostly fruit on long stems that grew the previous year. Prune out older, fruited stems and weak new ones. Leave a raspberry cane every 15cm. For other fruits, leave 16 canes per plant or 24 for vigorous plants. Loosely tie in the selected shoots to supports such as posts and wires. Autumn-fruiting raspberries and a few late blackberries fruit on new canes. Cut these to ground level in February to promote masses of new shoots.

5. Swedes and turnips

Swedes and turnips are forms of separate brassica species, Brassica napus and B. campestris respectively, with swedes being hardy and turnips (right)liable to rot if frosted. Swedes are an excellent, winter vegetable particularly in cooler, wetter western and northern regions, while turnips are best as quickly grown summer and autumn vegetables. Turnips sown in September produce no root but yield spring greens in April. Swedes are an excellent winter veg, particularly in cooler regions

Guy Barter is chief horticultural adviser for the Royal Horticultural Society (@GuyBarter).

The Royal Horticultural Society is a charity working to share the best in gardening and make the UK a greener place. Find out more at

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