Short back and sides for shrubs

Berberis hedges will need a trim.
Berberis hedges will need a trim.

All perennial shrubs require a spot of pruning at some stage in their lives.

It might be a routine snip to remove dead, diseased or crossing branches; eliminating a wayward shoot to maintain the shape; or the annual chop to secure next year’s bloom. Each of these is fine if it is done at the correct time of year with a definite goal in mind that does not inhibit flowering.

A late acquaintance who loved his garden, would issue an annual invitation to discuss his plant collection of mainly ornamental trees and shrubs.

As we walked, he’d remark that his berberis darwinii always looked healthy but never flowered or berried well.

The reason was that he trimmed all the evergreen shrubs in early spring, with tidy appearance in mind.

In effect, the ripe flowering stems were being removed!

So, as I look around the excessive growth that several shrubs in this garden have made thus far, there has to be a pause for thought before wading in with secateurs or long-handled pruners.

We like to see patches of yellow in the winter garden and this is achieved in part by jasminum nudiflorum which, as the name suggests, flowers on bare stems from November to March.

But two plants tumbling over walls missed out on their annual trim in late April. With the next floral display due to begin in 10 weeks, each snip would be tantamount to vandalism.

Similar value is placed on the cheerful yellow blooms of forsythia that appear in springtime.

The pruning is identical to that of blackcurrants; removing spent flowering/fruiting stems down to the point where young shoots emerge.

But didn’t I just miss the opportunity in June and the old wood has sprouted skyward!

Rather than sacrifice good flowering stems, we’ll leave well alone this time, anticipate a tall display and inflict more drastic pruning next year to keep growth within bounds.