When to prune
Get started with the following guide, but do further research to check the specific needs of your plants, including the frequency of pruning needed.
Most roses: cut to an outward-facing bud to achieve an open-centred form. Late-summer and autumn-flowering climbers: prune when the buds begin to swell.
Late-winter- and springflowering climbers: trim lightly after blooming at end of season. Late-summer-flowering shrubs: can be cut back hard in early spring (only those that flower on the current season’s growth, such as buddleias). Winter-flowering shrubs: prune early spring to get good shape. Shrubs with colourful stems, eg dogwood: prune hard when new foliage begins to show in early March. Woody perennials: any left for overwintering birds and invertebrates can now be tidied.
Evergreens: require little more than cutting out any dead, diseased or damaged wood. Rambling and climbing roses: trim to stop them taking up too much space. Members of the prunus family: pruning helps to prevent silver leaf disease, which is windborne from the end of autumn to spring.
Birch and magnolias: prune in late summer rather than in winter, when they are likely to bleed sap heavily (see page 34).
Most deciduous shrubs and trees: prune lightly in autumn or winter. Herbaceous perennials: cut back by removing dead flower stalks.
Woody perennials: ideally, leave the types with good seedheads (as food for birds) and hollow stems (these provide homes for hibernating insects) until spring. Currants and berries: prune and thin out.