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Trees, Shrubs & Hedges

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Planting 

Traditionally carried out in October, these days pot grown shrubs and trees can be planting at any time of year - providing the ground is soft enough to dig! 

Whilst the soil is still warm, evergreen shrubs and hedges can be planted in October. Hedges are planted for various reasons, not just as a boundary. It could be an idea to create ‘rooms’ within the garden and this is easily done by using shrubs and hedge plants as walls. Fast growing ones include photinia, weigela, pyracantha – though the latter has very sharp needles, so may not be suitable. Privet is reasonably quick and easy to maintain, but personally I prefer something a little more exciting! Mind you, you could have some fun with topiary!

 

When planting up new shrubs and trees, try to dig as wide an area as possible in the chosen site and cram it full with a good mixture of soil and compost. Open up a hole at least as deep and wide as the plant, wriggle out any roots that are tight, place in the hole and infill with composted soil.  I’m not a fan of treading plants in as this can damage soil structure and roots, but I do gently shake the plant in situ to allow soil to fall around the root system. Water well for the first couple of weeks, but take care not to overdo this.

 

Cuttings

May is a good time to take soft cutting from a number of shrubs that are shooting out new, strong growth, like Buddleia, Lavertera, Hydrangea.  It’s so easy to do and costs practically nothing – snip off a new shoot just above a leaf joint (3-4”), snip off the growing tip and remove lower leaves then dip in rooting compound, shake off the excess and plonk into pots of compost up to their lower leaves.  Keep moist, but not wet.  Once roots have started to appear from the base of the pot, they can be planted out in their ultimate growing position.

Pruning

Prune winter flowering shrubs such as mahonia, heathers and winter flowering jasmine once flowering has finished usually in January or February. If you’re lucky enough to have a flowering wisteria, now is the time to cut hard back to at least 3 buds from the base of a strong stem as this will encourage abundant flowers later in the year.  Any weak or broken stems should be removed. Tie in to the shrub’s framework as necessary. Buddleia and elder both need to be cut right back to the ground base to allow for good, strong flowering in the summer.

Roses need to be hard pruned in early April, cutting back to one or two buds of a healthy stem, removing any weak or crossing stems. One chap I know goes as far as removing all but 4 or 5 selected stems in order that all nutrients are shared amongst the chosen few and thus produces the most glorious rose heads – not sure that I’d be that brave!

Roses will be coming to an end in early August and it’s important not to apply any fertilizers as this would encourage soft new growth that will come to nothing.  Ensuring no weeds are present, lay a thin mulch around the plant to sustain it during it's die-back time. If you’re troubled with greenfly or blackfly, rose insecticide does work swiftly and efficiently without harming the plant, but it may be better to cut away infected parts and disposing of them.

August is the time prune fruit trees and check that any ties used with supports are not cutting into stems or branches.  Some early varieties will be ready for picking and you can check by gently twisting a fruit; if it comes off easily it’s yours and not the birds! Summer flowering shrubs, such as wisteria, should be pruned once the flowers have died off.  This allows goodness to concentrate on where it's needed rather than new, barren growth. August is generally recommended for lavender pruning, but I tend to wait until the bees have had their fill - usually around middle September. Waiting that extra time has never seemed to affect next year's growth.

However difficult it might be to do it, hard pruning of coloured stemmed plants such as dogwood and willows in early spring, will result in even stronger bark colour next winter.  They do look so good at the moment because the colder the weather the brighter the colour, but that colour is intensified in young growth, so cut back this month to 1”-2” of the base. Hard cutting back now also allows the plant to regenerate strongly to produce lovely variagated foliage in early summer.

In late May and early June, cut back spring flowering shrubs, such as forsythia, after flowering removing any damaged or crossing stems then give them a good glug of general liquid fertilizer. Tie in growing climbing plants such as clematis, wisteria, honeysuckle and maybe try some new ones such as Solanum (potato vine) that is not only evergreen and grows rapidly, it produces lovely clusters of white flowers in the summer. Remember that if you’re planting clematis to bury it as deeply as you can as the roots can be attacked by an air-borne fungus that won’t get through the soil. If you're planting clematis in a pot, it can help if you plant up some low growing, ground hugging plants all around the base.

Cutting Back

Cut back summer grasses in March to their base and clear any weed seedlings. Top with a light layer of good soil mixed with horticultural grit or sand. No need to water as grasses will generally find their own level of requirement. Check which group your clematis belongs to and cut back accordingly. Generally, late summer flowering varieties will need this in March. Roses should not need further cutting back until April, but check that rogue buds have not appeared at the tips; these buds are very bossy and haul up most of the nutrients leaving little, if any, for other buds on the stem, so nip them out!

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