Winter Pruning

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Winter is the time when we all get enthusiastic about pruning. There’s a certain amount of tradition in this because many plants are pruned in winter, but cool winter days are also far more conducive to physical activity. And pruning can, indeed, be quite hard work.

Yates Garden Guide has a useful, two-page section that gives an overall view of pruning. Some of its most important recommendations are:

As Yates Garden Guide suggests, before you start give some thought to why you are pruning. The worst reason for pruning is to try and restrict the size of a plant that wants to outgrow its allotted space. It’s far better to choose the right plant in the beginning. But, that said, some plants respond well to regular clipping. This list includes common hedging plants such as buxus, murraya, photinia and small-growing lillipillies. These all have the ability to produce shoots from midway along bare stems.

Some flowering plants produce blooms on new wood, so pruning encourages more flower-bearing shoots. Modern roses are good examples. Most people know that roses should be pruned in the depths of winter when they’re at their most dormant, but be aware that some roses are pruned after flowering in spring. Once-a-year bloomers like Banksia roses and many of the heritage roses take longer to develop flowering wood. These should be pruned immediately after flowering, unless you want to leave some to develop their colourful autumn rose hips (fruit).

Modern roses are pruned by about one third in the middle of winter. Remove any dead or diseased wood and take advantage of the opportunity after pruning (while plants are completely leafless) to spray all over with Yates Lime Sulphur to clean up scale insects and fungal diseases.

For a complete guide to rose pruning, get a copy of Yates Roses, the comprehensive and beautiful book that tells you all you need to know about these favourite flowers.

Here are some other winter pruning jobs:

Prune back hydrangea stems that have flowered in the previous year, cutting just above a double set of buds. Leave the stems that didn’t flower – they’re next summer’s display in waiting.

Most deciduous fruit trees are pruned in winter. The exception is the apricot, which is less likely to become disease-infected if pruned in late autumn. The main aim of fruit tree pruning is to open up the tree so that all parts receive plenty of sunshine. All deciduous fruit trees benefit from a treatment with a fungal spray (such as Yates Fungus Fighter) in their dormant period, so pruning can help keep trees at a manageable size to allow good coverage.

Many ornamental deciduous plants can also be pruned in winter, but wait until after flowering before pruning spring bloomers.

The other main plant groups that are pruned in winter are the summer-blooming varieties like hibiscus, fuchsias and impatiens. In warmer area these are cut back in late winter, and immediately fed with something like Dynamic Lifter to encourage new growth. Wait until spring in cooler climates.


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