Now is the perfect time to prune
Pruning is vital to keep plants healthy and encourages them to produce flowers and fruit, so neglect it at your peril!
Throughout the winter months you’ll notice the tangled mess that some deciduous shrubs get into and spot damaged and disease branches that are spoiling their good looks. Now’s perfect for plenty of pruning, when plants are dormant. So put on your pruning gloves, because it’s time to get tamed, trained and trimmed.
When to prune and why
Conveniently, winter’s the best time to prune as the sap – the plants’ life-blood, is sluggish and won’t seep out of the open wounds, giving them time to heal before the plant wakes up and new leaves unfold in spring. Pruning is the way to guarantee a successful year of growing ahead and, with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be hard work either. The right tool will make the job so much easier and it is better for the plant too! Finding the tool for you, means looking at each individual plant’s needs. For any garden that has a mixture of new and mature shrubs, it certainly makes life easier to have a good pair of secateurs.
Tools for the job
With Kent & Stowe Professional Bypass Secateurs, which have two blades that work in a scissor action, you can easily cut through shrub stems up to 20mm thick. The sleek secateurs also have a built-in sap groove that is designed to direct the sap away, so preventing it from sticking to the blades. If the garden is overgrown or you have a mature hedge with thick stems to cut through then you’ll definitely need a pair of loppers. The Kent & Stow ‘General Purpose Lopper’ has a ratchet system making it easy to slice through stems up to 30mm. The Telescopic Bypass Loppers, which have six locking positions; adjustable from 650mm to 900mm, is a must-have for tackling more heavy-duty branches and also ones that are out of reach. These loppers are an excellent option for cutting through green live wood as well as delicate stems. You’ll no doubt be putting your secateurs through their paces in late winter for pruning hardy varieties of Buddleia (butterfly bush) and Sambucus (elderberry) to make room for the fresh growth. But we weary that any pruning you do now will expose new shoots to frosts.
Summer and autumn flowering varieties of clematis will also need attending to. Don’t be afraid to be brutal, as clematis will easily recover. Begin by pruning the old shoots back to about three buds, which is usually about 30cm above ground then remove entirely all dead and damaged wood, followed by weak spindly growth at the base of the plant. For precision trimming and shaping of large-scale topiary and tightly clipped hedges Kent & Stow also have Topiary Shears, with long length, lightweight aluminum handles for minimal fatigue and a cutting diameter of 6mm for creating and maintaining intricate hedge designs.
Springing into action
To guarantee that your hydrangea bushes will produce even more flowers, you’ll need to wait until spring to wield your secateurs. Start by cutting any weak growth right down to ground level then cut back branches that flowered last year by 30cm. Trim to just above a couple of buds, so that last year’s flower heads protect the new buds from frost. Grown mostly for its autumn colour Cotinus coggygria can be pruned to produce even bigger leaves, which in autumn will look all the more stunning as they turn from green to crimson through a rainbow of colours. Prune the shrub just before the buds burst, cutting it down to 60cm above the ground. Note that any plants which produce flowers on stems in the previous year, must be pruned immediately after flowering – don’t do it too early or you’ll remove all this year’s potential blooms!
Get going now
Plants like Cornus (dogwood) and Salix exigua (willow), that are grown specifically for their winter display of coloured stems, should be cut down in February to about 7.5cm—but make sure you cut directly above a growth bud. If you’re worried about the impact on the garden of this kind of severe pruning you could leave up to one-third of the coloured stems intact to prolong the show and nurse the new shoots as they emerge. In March, roses will need your attention. The aim for hybrid tea varieties is to create an open, balanced framework – do this by cutting stems back to a healthy, outer-facing pair of buds so you’re left with a vase shape, which will help air circulation and discourage fungal diseases.
When you’ve finished pruning excess growth, rake up your cutting with Kent & Stowe rake and add them to the compost bin. Shred woody stems and sprinkle with a nitrogen fertiliser and they will rot down and become a useful soil conditioner or mulch. With a little pruning effort done regularly, you’ll soon have a bloomin’ marvelous flurry of new growth during spring and summer.