Our Garden Basics – Pruning

I want to try and keep this as simple and easy as possible for those of you that are not regular gardeners or who are scared of killing plants just by looking at them (you don’t kill plants just by looking at them by the way, despite what you may think!) Hopefully, some of these basic garden tips will help give you the courage to get out into your gardens this year and make it the best outdoor space it can possibly be!

I’ve said this many times, Ian and I are self-taught Gardeners, with no real knowledge of gardens before we moved into our home in 2016, so we know how daunting it can be. It’s knowing where to start while trying to figure out the right thing to do without causing any harm to the plants already in the garden and making a pig’s ear of it. Well, do not fear as we all need to start somewhere and hopefully over the next few months, with our regular blog posts, IGTV Series and a little bit of hard work, you will have the garden of your dreams in only a few years, starting now! So I say let’s take this on together, learn from one another and be prepared to get your hands dirty. We are going to share with you some of the tips and recommendations we have been handed over the past 4 years.

We are in no way experts so feel free to comment or add any of your own personal recommendations in the comments section that you feel are relevant.

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A mixture of Aliums, Lupins and Evergreens in our raised borders.

So for our first garden blog post of 2020, it is all around Pruning! Pruning regularly is the best way to keep trees and scrubs in good shape, and your garden looking its best all year round. If you have neglected shrubs in the garden that you are thinking of getting rid of – wait – prune it back hard and wait for the plant to grow back in a more compact, tidy way before making a final decision. It costs hundreds of pounds to buy well-established plants, so think before removing anything in your garden as most shrubs will thrive from a good haircut (just remember how good I look once I’ve been to Roland’s hair salon!) It’s all about creating an evenly balanced, natural-looking shape and by pruning every year, you can do just that.

Use this guide over the next few months (up until July in some cases!) to help you with your garden pruning for Tree’s, Shrubs and Roses and of course, I will show you on Instagram stories and IGTV when we do our own pruning as a gentle reminder!

Basic Tips for Pruning

Firstly you will need the right tools for the job. A good pair of Secateurs is a must, I recommend investing in a decent pair that will last you 15+ years (if you keep them well maintained) alternatively, a standard pair at a lower cost will be absolutely fine for a few years to get you started. I’ve provided a selection for you to choose from, you don’t need all of these at once, so use the guide below to work out what you think you will need for shrubs and plants in your garden. 

  • Secateurs – for basic pruning – use for stems up to 1cm thick
  • Loppers – use for cutting larger stems and branches -2/3cm thick
  • Pruning Saw – used for branches that are over 4/5cm thick
  • Long-reach Pruners – used for trees and tall shrubs – cuts branches up to 3cm thick.
  • Hand Shears – used to clip hedges, box and shrubs up to 1cm thickness.
  • Topiary Shears – used for small topiary, herbs and other detailed work on smaller plants.

For larger garden Shrubs and Trees in established gardens use power tools such as Hedgtrimmers or a pruning saw – these come in Electric, cordless and Petrol versions. 

Look after your tools by keeping them clean, sharp and make sure you oil regularly.

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Right, Let’s Get Pruning

General Do’s and Don’ts

  • Make the right cut – make a cut less than a centimetre above the bud.
  • Cut at an angle, sloping in the direction the bud is pointing, although don’t get too caught up with this.
  • Don’t cut too far away from a bud, it will die off allowing infection to set in.
  • Don’t cut too close the bud either as the bud will not form properly.

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Q – When is the best time to Prune?

Most of you will have some of these plants in your garden (we certainly do!) so here is a step by step guide (broken down by the best time to prune) and starting with the UK’s favourite plant…

Roses

December to February (or before new green leaves have formed)

  • Prune top layer of large rose shrubs so you can get a better view of what you’re pruning
  • Remove all damaged and crossing stems
  • Next, remove stems that look too weak to hold their own weight.
  • Remove old woody stems that are crowding the rose from the base.

For a more detailed overview on Rose Pruning, take a look at the blog post I wrote last year.

  • Climbing Roses – pruned to maintain a framework of long stems. Side branches can be pruned back to a healthy bud- leaving no more than a couple of inches of growth.
  • Do not prune Rambler Roses in Spring – must be done after flowering.
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David Austin Gertrude Jekyll in its second year of flowering.

Wisteria

Twice a year; in Jan-Feb and Jul-Aug

  • Cut back twice a year to maximise flowering. Regular pruning helps keep the growth and size under control. 
  • Mid-summer cut back side shoots to within five or six buds of the main branch – this will control leaf growth and encourage short flowering spurs to form.
  • Winter Prune – cut the stems back harder, to two or three buds from the base. They will still flower even if don’t prune but by pruning the Wisteria you get a better overall display.

Clematis 

You will need to check what type of Clematis you have in your garden so you know when is the best time to prune them. The rule is – if it flowers before June, do not prune! If you are unsure, leave it, let it flower and take note for next year.

  • Pruning Group 1: Prune mid- to late spring, after flowering and once the risk of frost has passed
  • Pruning Group 2: Prune in February and after the first flush of flowers in early summer
  • Pruning Group 3: Prune in February

Late Flowering Clematis – blooms after June… cut down to ground level (20cm) every February to keep them compact and promote flowering.

More on Clematis Pruning from RHS here

Shrubs Pruned by Month 

Blooms appear on new stems so prune in Spring.

February/March

  • Buddleia (cut back to 30cm from the ground in February/March
  • Lilac
  • Eryngiums
  • Salix (Flamingo) – Light Prune

 

March

Dogwood

Dogwood (or Cornus as it’s known) has the most amazing bright red winter stems which come from the stems grown in that year hence pruning these back hard in Spring.

Reduce last years stems (the ones brighter in colour) to about 10cm long making sure you get a clean cut (preferably above a pair of buds) and cut at a downward angle.

Aim to cut Dogwood back into a nicely framed framework – lots of new shoots will sprout late in Spring which will create a wonderful display come, Winter!

Other types of Cornus can be lightly pruned this time of year but don’t go mad!

March/April

Hydrangeas

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As a general rule of thumb, Hydrangeas are best pruned in spring. This is a good time to deadhead most varieties too – leaving the seedheads on the plant over winter protects the buds beneath.

  • Deadhead any remaining dried out flower heads, cut back to the first strong pair of buds, below the old flowerhead.
  • Remove 3/4 of the oldest, most stemmed branches right down to the base. Older stems produce smaller blooms than the younger shoots.
  • Stems that are 2-3 years old, prune them back to a strong shoot. This stops the plant becoming too heavy in the summer.
  • Remove all thin, twiggy shoots from the base of the shrub so all the energy goes into the stronger stems that will carry this year’s blooms!

Other shrubs to prune at this time;

  • Caryopteris
  • Pyracantha

March-May

  • Winter Jasmine
  • Enonymus

April

Fuchsias

Wait for hard frosts to pass before pruning. They should be pruned annually. Remove thin, weak stems as these are likely to have been killed in the winter. Prune thicker stems to the length of a standard pencil leaving a low, neat looking structure of stems. This will help promote new growth for summer flowering

Q – Any Shrubs I should not prune early in the year?

There are Shrubs you don’t prune in the winter/spring as they flower on last years growth so prune once they have finished flowering. If you prune in Spring, you risk cutting off the flowering buds.

Shrubs only to be pruned once flowered by month;

May – July

  • Weigela
  • Lavatera

July – Sept

  • Ceanothus
  • Philadelphus (Prune in July)
  • Deutzia
  • Forsythis
  • Camellias – Light prune in April/ May if the plant is going too big.

So that’s it for now, we would love to see your stories or posts of how you get on this year – make sure you tag us @our1930sfixerupper on Instagram and use the hashtag #jobstasksandchores

 

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Sandra
    February 1, 2020 / 5:19 pm

    Well for a self confessed none gardener this is a very comprehensive guide. And well written.

  2. Allison
    February 1, 2020 / 6:34 pm

    This is bloody brilliant. Thank you Ross, really clear. I’d left you a question on your IGTV video asking about pruning the generous gardener climbing rose but I’ve got the answer from your blog above, so thank you! I am inspired! X

  3. Natasha
    February 1, 2020 / 8:17 pm

    Fab guide !! Gonna get out tomorrow ! I’m gonna prune my Bush! 🤣🤣

  4. My Tiny Estate
    February 2, 2020 / 9:03 am

    That is brilliant guys! Only one plant that we know applied to us but we can add more this year! 😂

  5. Trudie
    February 3, 2020 / 10:58 pm

    Thank you for the great pruning tips.

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