Gardening Magazine

Spring Pruning

By Notcuttsuk @notcuttsuk
Pruning shrubs is a subject that causes much head scratching amongst gardeners. The first foray into ourSpring Pruning gardens after the winter months often reveals tangled masses of branches along with leaf litter and other debris yet to be cleared from the borders. Perennials and ornamental grasses are easy – just remove the dead leaves and stems, taking care not to cut into the new growth which will already be appearing in many cases. Evergreen grasses need only be ‘groomed’ by brushing your hands through them (wearing a good pair of gloves!) to removed the dead leaves that will have built up towards the base of the plant.  But which shrubs to prune and which to leave?  To make this decision, we need to remember when the plant flowers. Many a spring show has been ruined by a quick trim in late winter, resulting in the removal of old wood that would have shortly produced flowers! Many shrubs produce their flowers on the previous year’s growth so by pruning immediately after flowering you are giving the plant the maximum amount of time to make the following year’s flowers. Spring flowering shrubs that include Forsythia, Ribes, Camellias and Magnolias should definitely be left alone now and tackled in early summer. Many spring flowering shrubs will not need pruning each year, so it’s up to you to decide how much and how often to reshape them.  Buddleia davidii are very fast growing and flower on the current year’s growth in late summer. These benefit from pruning every year and so are definite candidates for a hard prune now! Take tall growing plants back to about 60cm from the ground and remove some of the oldest, woodiest stems completely to allow more light into the plant and allow new shoots to develop. The diminutive, newer varieties (Buddleja ‘Buzz’ springs to mind) that are bred for small gardens and patio containers only need a tidy – they are slower growing than their larger cousins.  Shrubs such as the glossy leaved Abelia x grandiflora with its clusters of tubular flowers that are so valued for late summer and autumn blooms can also be pruned hard now by removing some of the vigorous stems that have shot straight up and have no blossom bearing twiggy side shoots. The twiggy side shoots will manufacture flowers; the strong, aggressive shoots that go straight up need to be curbed through the summer months by pruning back by two thirds in August to remind the plant that it needs to make twiggy growth, not tall useless ‘water shoots’. Shrubs that flower at midsummer, which include Philadelphus (Mock Orange) make their blooms on short ‘spurs’ of new growth that come from wood that is two years old or more, so these should be pruned after flowering in late summer. However, early spring is a great time to rejuvenate any old, deciduous shrubs over several years by pruning some of the woodiest stems to the base of the plant. By carrying this operation out over a number of years each spring, you will not lose all of the flowers and the hard pruning will not be such a shock to your plant!  For all pruning jobs you should be armed with a good pair of secateurs, a pruning saw and a stout pair of gloves.  Complete the task by giving your plants some TLC. A feed with some fertilizer such as pelleted chicken manure or Vitax Conifer and Shrub, spread around the base of the plant and watered in, followed by an application of homemade garden compost as mulch to keep the soil in good heart will make your plant feel better!  Remember – the worst that can happen by pruning at the wrong time of the year is that a year’s flowers are lost. Your plant will probably grow back stronger and better for being under the knife!

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