All of our shrubs, trees and perennials have grown really fast this year with plenty of rain and mild weather to encourage them. Sitting in the house, it feels as though we will soon be enveloped by the garden, so it is time to do some summer pruning!
My rule of thumb is to prune plants, if it is needed, immediately after they finish flowering to remove some of the old wood and encourage new growth which will flower in subsequent years. This is fine but some shrubs have a habit of growing very vigorous ‘water shoots’ through the summer, especially in the sort of warm, wet weather we have had over the last few months. These vigorous growths will take energy from the plant and make it grow out of shape, producing few or no flowers, so they need to be dealt with severely!
Armed with my sharp pair of secateurs I have already tackled the growths on my Weigela and today I have pruned my Philadelphus, which has been covered in beautifully scented white flowers for weeks. The plant has become congested with all of the new growth and lots of water shoots, so I began by pruning these back to the base. Hopefully this will help the plant to produce more of the twiggy growths that will provide flowers over the next few years!
The next part of the process was to remove crossing growths and some of the old wood that has just flowered by pruning back to the plant’s framework. The objective of this part of the pruning is to open the plant up, allowing light and air into it and to make a good shape. Then it was a case of a trim to remove any bits of dead twig back to healthy leaves, followed by a feed with pelleted chicken manure, which I water in well, to encourage new growth through the rest of the summer and autumn. The plants always look a bit bedraggled (and Mrs McGregor always tells me off for pruning too hard!) when I have finished, but within a few weeks, they will recover and grow away for another season.
Other plants that I have to keep an eye on for water shoots are my Forsythia ‘Lynwood’, which I often need to tackle two or three times in the summer, and the autumn flowering Abelia grandiflora, which is also notorious for these vigorous growths that sprout over the top of what is otherwise a neatly shaped shrub - one I would not be without in the garden for the scented pink flower clusters in late summer.
My Clematis montana Grandiflora did not flower well this year, whereas last May, it was full of glistening white flowers. At present the plant seems intent on reaching the summit of the house via. one of our down pipes, which it is using as a ladder. Another candidate for a hard prune back and I don’t think Mrs McGregor will complain about this one!