Ask most gardeners to name the task that fills them most with dread and fear, and pruning will almost certainly come to mind. This doesn’t of course need to be the case. With a little planning and preparation in advance then we can easily maintain the long term health and vibrancy of the garden.
Pruning is the process of removing particular parts of a tree, plant or shrub on a regular basis, such as branches, shoots, buds, etc. The overall goal of pruning should be that of extending the lifecycle of the plant.
Most pruning is a simple do it yourself job, and it’s very important …..
Why do I need to prune?
To promote healthy development – removing the old, dying or weak branches from the trees/shrubs will allow the structure to become stronger and flowering to become more prolific leaving your with a more healthy and disease free plant.
To help maintain the ornamental appearance – Removing damaged or wayward shoots will stop the branches from becoming unnecessarily entangled and messy.
To remove diseased or dying wood – Essential, and will make the tree/shrub less appealing for insects to live within.
To control height and shape – If you are looking to keep certain plants, such as climbers or vigorous growing shrubs from becoming unmanageable, then regular and hard pruning will be a must.
To promote flowering and fruiting –pruning back helps to improve flowering and air circulation. With fruit trees in particular this should result in a much better and larger crop year on year.
To identify problems – By keeping regular pruning you will in turn identify any potential problems which may occur from time to time.
Deciduous shrubs and trees are best pruned in late autumn and winter, although we always recommend checking specific varieties before your start working. Some varieties will only need minor trimming such as Hydrangeas or Spiraea while clematis and climbing plants often require hard pruning.
As a starting point cut back and remove all dead and diseased wood. Always work with the natural habit and structure of the tree or shrub, to encourage continued natural growth. This can be followed up with removing any crossing or rubbing branches at the centre of the plant. By removing these branches which can act as a barrier to further growth, you will in fact improve circulation around the shrubs/tree, helping to reduce the likelihood of plant disease.
When removing stems, we suggest cutting at a little above healthy buds, cutting back around 0.5cm above. Never cut back and leave short stubs. Make all cuts perpendicular to the branch and close to the branch collar to facilitate rapid healing.
Climbing plants can benefit from regular pruning to ensure that they do not become too overgrown and out of control.
Clematis, will need to be pruned to about 20cm on planting. Most Clematis plants will require you to remove dead heads and stems, cutting back to where strong buds appear (in late winter). Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ and ‘Ville de Lyon’ only require light pruning (in February) in subsequent years. Clematis jackmanii should always be pruned back hard while Montana type Clematis such as Montana Mayleen, which is very vigorous, just needs to be cut back to control.
Lonicera, commonly known as the fragrant Honeysuckle, just need you to trim out the wood occasionally after flowering, removing the longer wayward shoots that have become overgrown or beginning to die off.
The best time to cut back and control most large Apple, Apricot, Cherry and Pear trees will be between winter and early spring. Once autumn has passed and all leaf has fallen and the trees become dormant, this will indicate the most appropriate time for pruning to occur.
To encourage healthy growth and to encourage a bumper crop of fruit, it’s critical to prune before the buds appear from mid-late spring. Make sure than any rubbing or branches that cross each other are trimmed back completely. Identify damaged or weakened branches and remove these also. Create a simple open structure where the side shoots can develop and become stronger.
For most roses you can prune in late winter. Take care to remove dead/diseased wood and deadhead faded blooms which can be done with your annual pruning. Cut no more than 5mm above a bud with a clean, sloping cut away from the bud so water cannot gather there. Trace any suckers back to their roots and pull them away.
Bush Roses should be well pruned in mid-March in Southern England and as one proceeds further north this should be deferred at such a rate that in the North of Scotland it is done in the second week of April. Floribunda Roses are a little tenderer and should be pruned one week later than the above dates. Hybrid Tea – Newly planted Hybrid Tea Roses should always be pruned back hard in the spring, provided the roots are firmly established, leaving only three or four eyes per stem, generally leaving about 15-25cm in length. Roses are roughly pruned in the nursery to approximately 35-45cm of stem. If left un-pruned they will die back along the stem and perish or produce leggy poor specimens.
Climbing Roses – Do not prune for two years after planting and then only sparsely, removing unrequired growing tips. Weak or dead wood should be removed. Best to prune in autumn
Standard Roses– Stake well with expandable ties, driving in the stake below the head of the tree. Plant Rose Tree to old soil mark level. Put liberal amounts of planting medium in hole. Prune back well in spring to good bud
Miniature Roses – These are miniature versions of Hybrid Tea or Floribunda types and should be treated the same allowing for the difference of scale. Miniature Roses are ideal for borders and rockeries or as pot plants, though they should be in the dry atmosphere of the house only for limited periods. Prune hard after planting.
The success of hedging plants and regular trimming/pruning is invariable interlinked. To maintain a compact and healthy formation to the boundary effect of a hedge will require careful planning and attention. Hedges can be formal or informal and this can determine the extent of trimming required.
Informal hedging plants such as Rose Stromboli andRose Queen Elizabeth can be trimmed once a year in late winter and early spring, removing any wayward of unattractive shoots.
Berberis thunbergii Atropurpura is a wonderfully unusual purple leafed hedge and can be pruned annually, best in February if all signs of frost have disappeared. Be careful however when pruning Berberis as they are thorny by their very nature so make sure to wear protective gloves. Lavender Munsteadis becoming a superb option for low growing boundaries because of its wonderful fragrance and versatility. If growing in rows for a low screening effect we suggest pruning lightly in spring each year.