Exercising your secateurs on messy shrubs may feel good
but can often be to the detriment of future growth.
Christopher Lloyd provides some expert advice on when
and how to prune
There is pruning that we can do now, as soon as the
leaves are off and we can see a shrub's
requirements clearly. But there is also a lot that is
best left till spring and more still that amounts to
a hack-back, rather than pruning. Hacking back may give
immediate satisfaction to the hacker but it may be doing
a lot of unnecessary damage to the shrub.
Take the vigorous Clematis
montana, for instance. It has got all over everything.
In the interests of the autumn tidy-up, it is tempting
to give it a short back and sides, even if only to show
who is master here. What has not been appreciated is
that every one of those long strands that has been removed,
contained the embryo of upwards of a hundred blooms
for next May, and they have all been sacrificed. The
solution is to leave all the spring flowerers alone
for now, and to prune them as necessary immediately
It is the same with
which is all too often seen as an ugly ball of chopped-back
shoots. Often the root of the problem is that, as a
vigorous shrub, it was not given enough space in which
to develop in a dignified manner in the first instance.
One way to manage a forsythia is to remove its oldest
branches, right into the centre of the bush, just before
it is about to flower and to bring them indoors to force
gently into bloom there. Early February is the best
time to do this; certainly not now.
The shrubs to manage after leaf fall are hardy
ones that it is a good plan to rejuvenate on a regular
basis, such as philadelphus,
(beauty bush) and kerria.
Remove their flowered branches, easily identified by
their twigginess, and leave those long, unbranched shoots
that it made this year and will flower for you next.
DO NOT tip these. Leave them full length.
The branches you
remove should be cut either at ground level or, if a
strong young branch arises from an old one, just above
this branch. In this way you open up the bush, letting
light into its centre and thereby encouraging it to
make more young growths in its next flowering season.
You also reduce its overall bulk. An old, unpruned bush
will take up valuable space but the whole of its centre
will be useless, contributing nothing and simply accumulating
dead or hopelessly weak growth.
If you inherit such a specimen and contemplate it dejectedly,
wondering where on earth to start, since there seems
to be no strong young growth anywhere, you must be drastic,
either restoring it to youthful productivity over a
couple of seasons, or by getting rid of it altogether
and starting again (often the best policy and you can
buy yourself what you know to be a good variety).
Visit the Superstore to see our huge range of secateurs
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com