As the leaves drop from the trees it’s time to reach for the pruning tools.

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Win­ter pruning guide

As a gar­den ma­tures it needs reg­u­lar pruning and clear­ing to main­tain the bal­ance of space, light and air and keep ev­ery­thing healthy, pro­duc­tive and beau­ti­ful. Once you get the hang of pruning, it is one of the most sat­is­fy­ing gar­den tasks and not as com­pli­cated as it may seem.

Win­ter is a great time for a clean up in the gar­den. Get­ting rid of plants that fail to thrive or have grown old and tired can give the gar­den an in­stant face lift and make space for more promis­ing plants to shine.

On the other hand, some­times a good prune is all that’s re­quired to make an old plant new again. Re­ju­ve­na­tion hap­pens when the re­moval of old wood stim­u­lates fresh new growth be­low. Many an old over­grown shrub will re­spond well to heavy pruning. You may miss out on flow­er­ing for a sea­son, but the end re­sult will be well worth the sac­ri­fice.


• Shrubs that bloom in win­ter or early spring pro­duce their flow­ers on wood that grew the pre­vi­ous spring. Hence they are pruned im­me­di­ately after flow­er­ing. • Shrubs that bloom in sum­mer or au­tumn on the cur­rent sea­son’s growth are pruned in late win­ter or early spring. • In cold ar­eas de­lay pruning any cold sen­si­tive shrubs un­til the risk of frost dam­age is over, even if this de­lays flow­er­ing.

• Fast grow­ing ev­er­greens, such as co­prosma, will of­ten re­ju­ve­nate when pruned hard down to bare wood, how­ever in gen­eral it pays to avoid cut­ting low down into old wood that has no leaves, es­pe­cially when pruning conifers and laven­ders. To en­cour­age bushy growth, trim the en­tire plant by up to one-third its vol­ume after flow­er­ing be­fore new spring growth com­mences. • Camel­lias are best pruned dur­ing or im­me­di­ately after flow­er­ing. The more open grow­ing va­ri­eties only re­quire pruning if you want to re­strict their over­all size, but those with thick leafy growth will flower more freely if you thin them to let in light and air. • Laven­der and hebe shrubs should be trimmed ev­ery year im­me­di­ately after flow­er­ing. Re­move a third to a half of the growth with­out cut­ting into any wood with­out leaves. • In cold cli­mates, cit­rus and other frost ten­der shrubs should not be pruned in au­tumn as this en­cour­ages vul­ner­a­ble new growth.


• July and Au­gust are the main

months for pruning bush roses. • Take out dis­eased wood first. • Re­move spindli­est and old­est canes and those that grow to­wards the cen­tre. • Cut the re­main­ing canes about 5mm above an out­ward fac­ing bud. Ideally, aim for a ba­sic vase shape leav­ing three to six evenly spaced branches. • Old fash­ioned roses that flower once in early sum­mer (on pre­vi­ous sea­son’s growth) are pruned im­me­di­ately after flow­er­ing.


• Pull or cut tatty leaves and fronds at their base. • Re­move dead leaves from grasses by comb­ing with a plas­tic rake or gloved hand.


• The faster a hedge grows, the more of­ten it will need trim­ming. • Cold hardy hedges are trimmed lightly in au­tumn, and then more se­verely in spring. • Small leafed hedges are eas­ily trimmed with an elec­tric trim­mer.


• Many climbers can be kept in check by snip­ping out grow­ing tips through­out the spring and sum­mer grow­ing sea­son. Oth­ers re­quire hard pruning to keep them under con­trol. • Gen­er­ally, ma­ture vines (three years

or older) need pruning ev­ery year. • After flow­er­ing, re­move the old­est canes at ground level then trim the re­main­ing growth by up to a third.


• Prune trees when young to en­hance their nat­u­ral shape or shape them to suit your re­quire­ments (such as a 2D es­palier, clean trunk um­brella or multi-trunk spec­i­men.) • Prune ma­ture trees only when nec­es­sary to con­trol size or re­move dam­aged branches. Think twice be­fore cut­ting into larger branches. Re­move dis­eased, dam­aged or crossing over branches. • Large trees can have their lower limbs re­moved to al­low more light in, open up a view or cre­ate new space for plant­ing or seat­ing. • To avoid dam­ag­ing the tree (or your­self), re­move heavy branches piece by piece. • Flow­er­ing trees such as mag­no­lias are

pruned im­me­di­ately after flow­er­ing. • Prune de­cid­u­ous trees while dor­mant

(with­out leaves).


• Fruit trees are pruned to get more light into the tree which trans­lates to bet­ter fruit­ing. • Pruning also helps to keep trees small, but an eas­ier op­tion in a small gar­den is to plant a dwarf va­ri­ety of a tree grown on a spe­cial dwarf­ing root­stock. • Prune in win­ter while trees are

with­out leaves. • Avoid pruning in wet weather. • Re­move dis­eased, dam­aged, in­ward grow­ing or crossing over branches first.

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