It’s time to start the chop!
This is the first of a series on what to prune and when, something that confuses even the most experienced of gardeners, believe me.
It’s not comprehensive but I hope it will act as a basic guide and there are links to my in-depth pages on the topics.
As January and February are the peak times for dormancy of most plants, this is the time to improve plant health and shape by pruning and you can happily leave most jobs until February. See how the weather goes.
Always make sure your tools (secateurs, loppers, pruning saws, shears) are sharp and clean.
Avoid cutting anything in the Prunus family (cherries, plums, etc), as they can get silver leaf disease at this time of year. Leave any pruning until midsummer.
Apples and pears
Start to prune apple and pear trees – at the very least, get rid of any branch that’s dead, damaged, diseased or rubbing on another one. Then spray your trees with winter wash or homemade garlic spray, which will kill insect eggs. Don’t overprune – this will encourage water shoots, which don’t bear fruit. For more on apple and pear tree pruning, click here.
Clematis (Groups 2 and 3)
Start to prune late summer-flowering clematis, or wait until next month. To keep your clematis small and to rejuvenate old plants, cut back hard to about a foot off the ground. if you want to keep them taller, just prune last year’s flowered shoots. For more on hardy climbers, click here.
Ornamental vines, ivy, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy can be cut back now – keep them away from windows, doors, gutters and roof tiles. Leave some ivy fruit for the birds. For more on hardy climbers, click here.
I doubt many of us with small gardens will have a Wisteria, but they need to be pruned twice a year. The first cut is made now, cutting back whippy summer side-shoots to two or three buds.
Prune rose bushes now, cutting back to just above a bud and remove any crossing or dead branches. For more on roses, click here.
Ornamental grasses (deciduous)
Cut back the old foliage from ornamental grasses before growth begins – clip them with shears to within a few centimetres of the ground. For more on ornamental grasses, click here.
It used to be taught that herbaceous perennials should be cut back for winter but this removes protection from the crown and a home for beneficial insects. For more on this topic and exceptions, visit here.
Cut back damaged, diseased and the oldest stems of brightly coloured willows and thin overcrowded stems. For more on plants with ornamental stems, click here.