Pruning plants is something that takes time to learn properly. Regular readers will know how I feel about the ‘hedgecutter brigade’. I write many articles about how to prune plants correctly but thought I would list out some of the problems that can be avoided or solved before you can prune correctly and regularly with amazing results.
The Correct Time of Year
A lot of plants are pruned in the dormant season but many are not. Forsythia, Weigela and Philadelphus should be pruned after flowering so that they can develop new flowering shoots for the following Spring. Evergreens such as Box should only be pruned in the Summer to avoid the dreaded blight and caterpillar. Plums and cherries should only be pruned in Summer to avoid silver leaf disease. Apple trees can be pruned in winter but trained apples such as espaliers should be Summer pruned. Pruning at the wrong time can lead to pests, diseases, dieback, loss of flowers and fruit.
Grapevines should be pruned in the depths of winter as in the Spring they bleed sap and so it goes on. One rule does not fit all. Clematis are a separate subject altogether!
Use the Correct Tools
Clean, sharp secateurs and loppers are essential for pruning and without ragged edges that can also let in disease. Never cut shrubs with hedge cutters as they can leave ragged edges, look unsightly and destroy flowering potential. I have seen bamboo, Rhododendrons, Forsythia, Weigela and numerous other shrubs butchered because they are all pruned in the same way at the same time of year with no thought. It breaks my heart.
Prune at the Right Place on the Stem
I have illustrated this above using one of my roses.
The left illustration is cut too high and will die back.
The middle stem has been cut too low and will die back.
The right illustration is the correct place just above a node and slightly at an angle. This is correct whether you are dead heading in the summer, cutting back before winter or pruning according to type in early Spring. With die back this can be detrimental to the plant, pruned correctly your plants will reward you for years to come. If you cut too far down plants can die of shock and too lightly they can become top heavy. They all have their own special requirements.
Pruning out Dead and Diseased Branches
This can avoid so many problems and is something everyone can do. You can clearly see dead branches and if you are not sure then a little scrape of the bark will tell you. If it’s green underneath it’s alive and if brown and brittle completely dead. Many trees and shrubs can be saved from certain death by pruning out these pieces and pruning correctly and regularly with the right tools at the right time of year.
Cathie’s Gardening School Services
Courses and practical workshops from my garden in Ash to help you learn about the subject and to be able to put that into practice. Garden consultancy and mentoring service in your own garden. Professional garden army makeovers and expert help with pruning.