Give your garden a summer “haircut”.
Give trees and shrubs a summer ‘haircut’ and not only will they look better but you will also reap the rewards with healthier, happier plants, writes Peter Cundall
THE reason we prune many trees and shrubs in summer is because it gets rid of weak or exhausted branches, enables better air circulation, and allows in more sunlight to ripen flowering wood.
Take wisterias, for example. At this time of the year most are a tangled mess of useless, whippy branches. All current season’s growth can now be cut back very hard so only short stems remain, each about a third of a metre long and with about six leaves.
Old, neglected wisteria vines are full of non-flowering, twisted old branches. They too can be cut out completely, always at the point from where they emerge from the main framework.
Wisterias are vigorous vines, so additional pruning may be needed during the next few weeks to cut back any regrowth. The extra sunlight ripens young branches and encourages the development of more flowering buds, easily identified because they are fat and almost round.
In July, all summer-pruned stems can be cut back again to just above the flower buds.
This double pruning treatment ensures more scented flowers that are no longer half-hidden in among the foliage, thus providing even more spectacular displays in spring.
Many multi-stemmed flowering shrubs can also be pruned this month. Forsythia plants are covered with golden bells in late winter and early spring. Flowering is improved when old, congested plants are thinned during active growth.
It is a simple, easy job to select two or three of the thickest, oldest stems and cut them off just above the ground. This stimulates plenty of young, vigorous flowering shoots, which come into bloom around August.
Another outstanding, multi-stemmed flowering shrub is Deutzia “Pride of Rochester’’. Growing to three metres in height, it becomes totally covered, top to bottom, with white, slightly fluffy
Flowering is improved when old, congested plants are thinned during active growth
blossoms every November.
It also thrives after a good summer pruning, especially cutting the oldest branches back almost to soil level. All young branches are best left unpruned.
Other spring and early summer flowering shrubs that thrive after old exhausted branches are cut out include Mock Orange blossom (Philadelphus virginal), Spiraea cantoniensis, S. Anthony Waterer, and most varieties of viburnum.
After pruning, give each shrub a deep, slow watering and a generous sprinkling of blood and bone fertiliser.
In the fruit garden, all raspberry canes that have carried fruit will have now withered, while new, replacement canes will have sprung up around them. It is essential that all dead canes be cut off at ground level and dragged clear. This helps reduce diseases and hiding places for pests.
The remaining healthy canes can then be tied together in loose bundles for mutual support.
The same treatment is carried out for all brambles after fruiting has finished, especially thornless blackberry, boysenberry and loganberry. These are semi-climbers and the long, whippy replacement canes should also be loosely tied together and secured to one side of the supporting frame or wires.
Blackcurrant bushes can also be pruned heavily after all fruit has been harvested. All old branches are easily identified because they are almost black and heavily infested with borers. Cut them off, right to the ground, and leave young, green branches to grow on.
Redcurrants are pruned by removing dead branches and cutting back younger growth by about a quarter.
Gooseberry bushes are long-lived. Summer pruning consists of cutting out all dead or diseased branches and all lowgrowing shoots. Prune again in winter to shorten side-shoots to four buds.
The main pruning of apricot trees is always after all fruit has been harvested. It consists of cutting out all inward-growth branches to open up canopy centres. All young growth that has occurred since spring can now be cut back by half.
After all pruning work, be sure to rake up fallen branches and other pruned material and take well clear to be either burned when safe to do so, or carted to the nearest tip site.