Time to tackle straggly plants
As soon as the weather warms up a bit, shrubs, hedges and trees seem to take on a massive growth spurt and it’s time to wield the secateurs.
While first-time gardeners may act with caution, pruning isn’t actually that complicated – the secret is to tackle your plants before they become straggly and out of shape.
Pruning properly should give you more flowers, fruits and general vigour, stripping away old, dead wood and diseased branches, allowing sunlight to the centre of plants to rejuvenate them for the season ahead.
The general rule is if it flowers before mid-June, prune it immediately after flowering; if it flowers later, prune it in late winter or early spring.
Those that flower in spring and early summer, including forsythia, philadelphus, kerria and weigela should be cut back as soon as they have finished flowering, to allow new shoots to form.
Follow the stem down until you reach a strong bud and cut just above the point where it grows out on the main branch.
Fast-growing suckers can be a problem on roses and lilac. They sap the energy of the plant and don’t bear flowers. Remove the basal shoots from the base of the bush or tree, usually below ground, tracing them to the point of origin, cutting them off close to the main stem. The leaves of rose suckers usually have seven leaflets instead of five.
Shrubs which are not totally hardy, such as choisya ternata, may have been damaged by frost or cold winds during the winter and you’ll need to cut back the damaged leaves at the tips of the shoots to healthy wood, to make the plant look better and reduce the risk of disease. Eliminate badly crossing branches which are rubbing against each other from shrubs and trees to prevent congested growth and reduce the risk of disease occurring through friction wounds.
If you have variegated plants such as euonymus which are reverting to green, cut out affected shoots when you notice them, as if they take hold, the whole plant could revert.
It’s time to wield the secateurs