border between winter and spring

Gardening tips

It goes without saying that what we do in the garden in February can be dictated and controlled by the weather. A wet month will curtail the work we hope and plan to do with our soil, but despite this there is plenty that can be still progressed, regardless of the weather, such as pruning.

There are a number of plants which benefit from early Spring pruning. These plants are those that flower on new growth. To prune these early will provide an abundance of flowers and healthy new growth later in the year. Effective pruning will also help you to control the size and improve the shape of your plant.

It is of vital importance to ensure that you have a sharp edge on your secateurs, loppers and pruning saw prior to undertaking the task. These three tools are essential to the work, along with a good pair of gardening gloves. For the purposes of this article I will look at pruning roses, buddleja, grasses, apple trees and climbers.

Look out for the 3 ‘Ds’

Roses are a tough plant and really benefit from a good pruning at this time of the year which will give them a good shape and structure along with benefitting their flowering. The first thing I look at before I start pruning is the actual bush itself. I assess the state it is in and look out for the ‘ 3 Ds’ - dead, diseased and damaged wood. Once these are identified they should be removed from the bush.

After this any weak or wispy stems should be removed, as these may not be strong enough to support blooms going forward. Now it is time to create an open bush with strong branches by pruning stems, at an angle, just above a bud. Once you are happy with your pruning, feed each rose bush with a good fertilizer. We use either a liquid or a seaweed pellet fertilizer.

Buddleja or Common Butterfly Bush are a wonderful shrub which can put in a great deal of growth over a growing season. If left unpruned these shrubs can really take over an area. They respond well to being pruned back to a few healthy buds above their bases. This means that you will lose from 70 to 90% of the plant's previous growth.

Don’t worry, the plant can take this sort of pruning and will provide you with a healthy bush and a good flowering season. Ultimately this will benefit the butterflies that it will attract to your garden in due course.

Deciduous ornamental grasses that have been standing over Winter will now benefit from being cut down before new shoots start shooting from the base of the plants. Following on from this and if your grasses are strong enough, now would be an opportune time to dig up these plants. They can then be divided at the base and replanted around your garden, filling in any gaps in your borders.

It is time to cut back

In relation to climbers now is a good time to cut back late flowering Clematis i.e. Clematis jackmanii and Clematis viticella which are two of the more popular Clematis varieties. These flower on growth made in Spring. If you are unsure of when you should prune the following might be of help ‘if it flowers before June do not prune now’. Another popular climber which may be in need of some attention this February is Wisteria. The wispy growth on this climber can be pruned back now.

Apple trees can still be pruned in February, the purpose of pruning now is to clear any damaged or overcrowded growth and to allow more light into the tree. Taking action now can stimulate more vigorous growth and can establish a good framework of fruiting spurs. It is also beneficial to the tree to give it a good feed of a rich compost or sulphate of potash to help get a plentiful blossom.


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