Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Gardens: Now's the Time to Get Pruning

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Gardens: Now's the Time to Get Pruning

Article excerpt

SPRING is in the air and that means gardeners will be digging out their secateurs for some serious pruning as the growing season begins.

However, some may come unstuck if they prune at the wrong time, damaging new shoot growth and losing this year's flowers, while others will hack away at woody plants that should be left to develop unpruned, apart from removing dead and diseased stems occasionally.

So, what should you leave alone?

It's best not to interfere with rock roses, a family of short-lived summer shrubs, which won't come back easily if cut back hard.

Laburnums, Pieris floribunda, daphnes, sarcococca and some rhododendrons are also best left unpruned, otherwise you may ruin their shape or reduce flowering the following year.

Slow-growing deciduous shrubs such as hibiscus, azaleas and hydrangeas don't need much pruning and should be allowed to keep their flower heads all winter.

If you didn't remove dead growth from perennials in the autumn you can do it in early spring, which can help if you are planning to lift, divide and replant specimens and the dead foliage marks the position of plants that may otherwise be difficult to locate.

Most evergreens, including conifers, only need an optional summer shaping with shears.

The shrubs that you should leave alone in early spring are those that flower in spring up to early summer, such as philadelphus, forsythia, kerria and weigela.

This is because the flowers are produced on shoots that developed during the previous growing season, so these flowering shoots should be cut back immediately flowering has finished, to allow new shoots to form.

The ones that flower from early summer onwards, including potentilla, lavatera and fuchsia, are the ones that need pruning in early spring, before growth starts.

Cut back old wood hard to a low bud to encourage vigorous new growth, which will produce flowers in the same year.

You may be a bit tentative about giving the shrub too much of a haircut, but there are certain plants that you can cut right back within an inch of their lives in early spring, including Buddleia davidii (butterfly bush), which can be cut down to a couple of buds from the ground, Caryopteris x clandonensis, Ceanothus 'Burkwoodii' and santolina. …

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