Be ruthless: Now is the time to trim back.
Following a burst of energy in spring, many flowering trees and roses need a careful trim to thin them out and get rid of tangled or old growth
Early summer is an ideal time to prune spring-flowering trees to get rid of weak or dead wood while stimulating strong new flowering growth for next spring.
Japanese cherry-blossom trees often develop masses of useless, twiggy growth. Occasionally large branches start to die back in spring, especially after long wet periods. Waterlogging during winter cause outer roots to rot, so trees die back to try and restore balance. Dying branches are best removed immediately they are seen. Cherry blossoms are also subject to bacterial diseases or even borers, another cause of dieback.
Cutting off diseased and dying bran-- ches isolates and gets rid of contaminated material. Ornamental blossom trees are usually grafted on to closely-related, vigorous stock. When these roots are damaged due to wind-rock or deep cultivation, sucker growth invariably sprouts from wounds. Cutting suckers hard, preferably below ground while in active growth, helps keep good control.
Weeping trees are commonly dam- by incorrect pruning, especially those grafted on to tall standards. These beautiful ornamental trees are grafted at the tops of standards, often 2m or more above the ground.
The aim is to thin out weeping branches rather than cut them back hard. When canopies become overgrown and congested they have to be pruned, with flowering varieties always pruned after blossoms fade.
First, cut out branches that poke upwards through canopies instead of drooping. These always originate from below graft unions, so are really suckers. Next, prune away any non-flowering, weak branches hanging close to trunks. Once
When the last roses shrivel, immediately start thinning the drooping canes
these are removed, only outer circles of branches are left dangling.
Finally, evenly thin overcrowded and crossed branches. Some weeping trees may appear sparse after this treatment, but strong, healthy replacement growth appears in weeks and trees are soon covered with new flowering wood.
This selective pruning can be carried out in early summer with weeping crabapples and elms. Weeping birches and maples bleed easily early in the season so are pruned in late April.
When pruning weeping figs, avoid contact with any milky sap by wearing gloves and eye protection. Weeping standard roses are nothing more than ramblers grafted on to extra-tall standards. They usually flower once during early summer and if neglected, tend to become tangled, prickly eyesores.
When the last roses shrivel, immediately start thinning the drooping canes, choosing the oldest ones first and leaving all young canes hanging.
If necessary, weeping standard roses can be thinned again in July. I wear eye guards and strong gloves for protection. Two-handed loppers are perfect for reaching upwards and easy cutting.
Avoid cutting main stems beneath graft unions, easily identified by a distinct swelling, right at the top of standards. After a good pruning, less than half the drooping branches may remain, but new ones sprout in weeks.
Always water trees and roses deeply after summer pruning, then sprinkle blood and bone mixed with about 10 per cent sulphate of potash generously over the root zone beneath drip-lines. Then water again. You’ll be astonished at the improvement in the health, vigour and flowering capacity of these lovely plants.
Pruning trees and roses is fairly easy work but the hard part is raking up and carting away the debris. I leave it lying in the sun for a few days for leaves to shrivel as they dry. This makes them fairly light for raking into heaps for easy lifting and removal using a strong garden fork.