Friday, 27 March 2009

Spring pruning jobs

In the north of England there are some pruning jobs that are best left til spring to protect the plants from cold weather and I usually carry these out towards the end of March. This week I pruned the hardy fuschias, Fuschia magellenica and its pretty white form, which makes large shrubs by the end of a season. They do best if all those woody stems are cut back hard to about eight inches so that all the growth is fresh each year and it then flowers very well in late summer. We also cut down all the Verbena bonariensis, (see previous posts) having left the stems on over winter to protect them. Rue is another plant that I have only just pruned back, cutting this down to about half its size at 18 inches, because it too can suffer up here in the north if cut back in the autumn. The same goes for the later flowering lavenders and these hedges have just been run over with the hedgetrimmers.

Yesterday we pruned our long line of buddleias, grown in the garden for the major attraction of massed butterflies as well as their heady scent. I always cut the buddleias back in the autumn to about five foot for a number of reasons; it tidies them up and prevents root rock if it is very windy, it stops them seeding all over the place and it means less to cart away in spring. I then prune them again in March. It may seem cruel but they grow fast and it means that when they do flower in late summer the blooms are at a good height for enjoying their colour, scent and butterfly visitors. If you leave buddleias unpruned, the flowers end up far too high above your head to be able to properly enjoy them.

You can see how it is done in this picture and with a bit of warm weather they will have disguised the woody stems very quickly with fresh foliage. The pruners are a new lightweight pair made by Oxo (I suppose they have gone logically from Good Grips kitchenware to ergonomic garden tools). Having gardened all my life, I am very aware of the importance of avoiding repetitive strain and am always looking for tools that are easy to use. Long handled pruners have all their weight on the end and after an hour of use can be pretty tiring, so these light handles are great. The hand grips are much more comfortable than my old pair and the blades easily sliced through the tough buddleia stems. I could then go over all the narrow stems with my trusty Felcos which I had serviced over the winter (they came back good as new!) and the whole buddleia hedge looks neat and tidy. It was a lovely sunny day, with the odd bumble bee in the chinodoxas and a comma butterfly in the greenhouse, brought out of hibernation by the heat through the glass.

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