Advice: pruning

Your garden is bountiful. It's overflowing with plants but if you're not careful they'll take over the house too!

Most plants are pretty resiliant when it comes to pruning but there are a few simple rules to follow that will help you avoid disasters with favourite plants and keep them looking good.

For most shrubs the best time to prune is after flowering.

Look at how the plant grows and prune accordingly. If, for instance, a plant throws up new stems from the ground take out a few of the oldest stems at ground level each year to keep a nice shape and encourage new shoots from the base. A good example of this would be Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn' and do it in the spring after the sweet smelling winter flowers on the stem have finished. Forsythias, Phyladelphus and hazel are also plants you would prune in this way.

For a plant that has colourful young stems like Cornus alba 'Sibirica' or 'Elegantisima' (red winter stems) then you can cut down all the stems to the ground at the end of February and new stems will grow during the year for winter colour in December. You will, however, sacrifice the flowers this way. You can do the same with Salix (willow) but cut to a single short stump (2-4 Feet high) rather than all the way to the ground.

Some plants need to be cut back in the late autumn/ winter before the sap starts to rise. If you need to cut back birch or walnut or are pruning a grape vine ideally do that before Christmas or risk the plant 'bleeding' all year.

For evergreens spring is usually the ideal time eg laurel. However, box and yew are ideally done summer or autumn. traditionally box is cut around Derby Day but can be pruned right through until late autumn and yew is normally pruned July/ August onwards. If you prune too early you will need to prune a second time to keep the crisp shape in the garden through to the following spring.

We are running some pruning training workshops in 2014. The first is on 22 February. The cost is £10 and you must book your place in advance with Lucy.

We will also run a fruit pruning workshop and when the date is set it will be posted on the events page.

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