This is the traditional time of the year to prune trees and shrubs before the sap starts to rise, there is more time available for this task now than later in spring. Pruning can be carried out even if the soil is wet. We all dream of growing more trees and large shrubs in our smaller gardens. Pruning will reduce the size of trees and provide more space and light for smaller shrubs and bulbs under the trees. Pruning not only helps control the size and shape of plants, but it encourages better flower production as well.
Many gardeners get into a tizzy when it comes to pruning. Many plants need little or no pruning if you have a large garden where you can allow plants to grow naturally. Unfortunately gardens are getting smaller and we need to prune more to restrict the size of trees and shrubs. Most gardeners will know how to prune roses but are afraid to prune anything else. Timing is vital – if you prune a flowering shrub at the incorrect time you may loose a whole year’s flowers but the shrub will flower the following year. Plants that flower on the current year’s growth can be pruned from autumn to early spring. If a plant flowers on the previous year’s growth it is pruned immediately after flowering.
Maintenance pruning is carried out to remove branches that are dead, diseased or damaged by wind to prevent the disease spreading. This type of pruning can be carried at any time of the year. The damaged branch is cut back to a healthy shoot or bud. When removing large branches use a pruning saw. First cut halfway through the branch from underneath. Then cut from above to remove the branch – this prevents the branch from breaking off and tearing the bark on the main stem. When removing a large branch paint the cut surface with a sealing paint to prevent infection. Variegated trees and shrubs often produce shoots with green foliage. These should be removed as soon as they appear because the green foliage is more vigorous than the variegated foliage and would eventually take over. Plants that are grafted onto rootstock, such as roses and cockscrew hazel, produce suckers that grow straight up. These must be removed when they appear to avoid them taking over and reducing the vigour of the grafted plant.
Roses such as hybrid teas and floribundas are pruned hard in winter to encourage new growth. In general floribundas are not pruned as hard as hybrid teas. Hybrid tea roses are pruned back to within 8 inches of the ground. After pruning spray the ground with a dilute solution of Jeyes Fluid to kill the spores of blackspot. Then give the base of the roses a mulch of well rotted compost. Rambling and climbing roses are best pruned in late summer.
Early-Flowering shrubs that flower in spring and early summer like forsythia, philadelphus, deutzia, spiraea and chaenomeles are pruned after flowering. Cut each stem that has produced flowers back to two or three buds from the main stem.
Plants such as abutilion, Buddleja davidii, cotinus, fuchsia, indigofera and perovskia produce flowers on stems grown in the current year. These plants are pruned in spring, just as the new growth is starting to show. Cut all last year’s shoots back to two or three buds from the older wood.
Do not cut back into the older darker coloured wood because this wood may not produce new shoots. After pruning mulch around the plant with a layer of compost or well rotted manure.
Foliage plants like eucalyptus, cornus(dogwood), salix and sambucus(elder) are pruned hard in spring to produce new foliage.
Late flowering clematis that flower from mid-summer on are pruned to the ground in spring and given a mulch of compost. All the other clematis need little or no pruning but they may be tidied up after flowering. If a clematis gets too big it can be pruned back hard in early spring and let grow all over again. Depending on the variety, you may get little or no flowers the first year, after that it will flower each year.
Flower and Garden Club Announcements
The Limerick Flower and Garden Club will hold their monthly event at the Greenhills Hotel, Ennis Road on Tuesday next March 10 at 8pm. All are welcome to look at the arrangements on display for competition and any participants interested in competing can get further details from Janet Bray on 086-3996689. There will also be an informative talk about gardening given by Lisa McKnight.