Signs of spring are everywhere

Phyl Boyce


Phyl Boyce

Signs of spring are everywhere

Thanks again to Tom Giltenan who helped me prune my apple trees, he did a great job as can be see by this photo

We are finally seeing some longer evenings and look forward to some sunshine and an increase in temperatures to get plants growing.

Early bulbs like crocuses and snowdrops have already started to push up through the cold soil to provide a welcome sign that spring is on its way. Like most bulbs, snowdrops like a well-drained soil that does not dry out in summer. Snowdrops are slow to establish themselves when planted as dry bulbs. It is best to plant them with green leaves attached - this is called planting ‘in the green’. Once established, they will multiply each year. Divide the clumps every three years. Lift the plants after flowering, with the green leaves attached, and carefully tease the clump of bulbs apart by hand. Replant the bulbs immediately mixing some leaf-mould into the soil. Snowdrops may all look alike but there are hundreds of different species and cultivars.

Prune now to get your plants into shape

This is the traditional time of the year to prune trees and shrubs before the sap starts to rise. 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

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.

Apple trees in particular benefit from careful pruning at this time of year, last week I was delighted to have Tom Giltenan in the garden to prune my apple trees, he did a wonderful job as can be seen in the photo.

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.