Clip Virginia creeper and other late autumn gardening jobs

First published by Rattan Direct on 19 October 2016.

Virginia creeper has started to cover the windows so the next few weeks are the time to clip it back. It’s also time to ‘renovate’ tangled climbing and rambling roses. Keep an eye on the weather, too, and protect your plants if frost is forecast.

Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor, Gwynedd. Virginia creeper
Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor, Gwynedd. Do they use ladders or do they abseil down to clear the Virginia creeper from the windows here? © Denis Egan, published under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence

Autumn is definitely with us now and I’m scrambling to get jobs done before the weather turns nasty. Like all of us, I’m busy but I know that if I don’t get these jobs done I’ll regret it.

Clip back the Virginia creeper so you can see out of the windows

You probably know Virginia creeper, a vigorous large deciduous climber whose leaves turn bright red and orange in the autumn. It grows very high, more than 12 metres according to the Royal Horticultural Society, and it grows so vigorously that windows can be quickly veiled by the leaves. It will soon be time to cut it back so that you can see out again, and more light can come into the house over the autumn and winter. (Or you could leave it till early spring.) It’s a two-person job if you’re working at height on ladders or with ropes.

Renovate climbing and rambling roses

My rambling rose, Félicité et Perpétue, has been sadly neglected for a number of years. I offer no excuses; it’s just one of those things that sometimes happen in a life and a garden.

It’s grown enthusiastically and has become very tangled. Often roses in a tangle don’t flower very well and although this hasn’t happened to F&P yet, it’s only a matter of time and I’d like a mass of flowers next summer.

Early August is the time for light pruning. Late autumn and early winter is the time to ‘renovate’ climbing and rambling roses as you can see their structure more clearly when they’ve lost their leaves. Renovation will boost the plant ready for flowering next year and is good for disease prevention, as more air and light can get to the plant.

The Royal Horticultural Society gives the same advice for renovating both climbing roses and rambling roses, given here in brief.

  1. Remove all dead, diseased, dying and weak shoots.
  2. Cut some of the old woody branches to the ground, retaining a maximum of six young, vigorous stems that can be secured to supports.
  3. Saw away any dead stumps at the base of the plant, where rain can collect and encourage rot.
  4. Shorten side shoots on the remaining branches and prune back the tips by one third to one half, to encourage branching.
  5. Give pruned plants a boost in the following spring by spreading a granular rose fertiliser over the soil and mulch them with a 5cm (2in) layer of garden compost or well rotted manure.

It’s not quite late autumn/early winter yet, so I’m giving myself fair warning that this has to be done!

Finally frost

Back at the beginning of September we started to talk about protecting plants from frost. Some of us have seen temperatures down to zero already, so watch the weather and make sure everything is protected if frost is forecast.

Good luck with keeping on top of the garden before bad weather starts in earnest.


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