Sharpen up your secateurs and do some autumn pruning. It will keep your garden looking good through the winter and make it more productive next year.
Always cut back to a leaf, bud or branch. Don’t leave a snag of wood that might become diseased.
If the buds on the plant you are pruning are opposite each other, cut straight across the stem about 0.5cm above the buds.
If the buds are on alternate sides of the stem, choose a bud that is pointing in the direction you want it to grow and cut at an angle pointing in the same direction as the bud and about 0.5cm above it.
Use the three-cut method to remove large branches: make the first cut in the underside of the branch, about two feet from the trunk. Cut no deeper than a third of the branch’s diameter. Make the second cut on the top of the branch, two or three inches from the first. This cut should sink until the branch snaps and falls to the ground. The third cut is the ‘flush cut’, a single cut made to the raised ring, or collar, at the base of the branch, so all that remains is a smooth surface.
First, deal with the ‘three Ds’: cut off any dead, diseased, or damaged wood. Next, remove any crossing branches and anything that clutters the centre of the plant. How much you cut out depends on the type of shrub and how naturalistic you want your garden to look. Stand back and look. Aim to create an open shape, with plenty of space for new growth. It’s better to cut out three to five of the oldest stems each year than to remove too much.
Remember, pruning provokes growth, so if you have a lop-sided shrub, prune the weaker side back hard and leave the well-developed side alone.
In early autumn, prune rock garden shrubs (helianthemum, cistus, lithospermum) and finish cutting back your silver-leaved plants (lavender, helichrysum, santolina and thyme). Lightly prune larger shrubs such as phlomis and senecio after flowering, removing spent and thinning out old wood.
Don’t be tempted to prune hydrangeas – the dead flowers will protect buds from the frost – or the early-flowering shrubs such as ceanothus and forsythia because they on wood that grew through the summer.
However, after leaf fall is a good time to rejuvenate summer flowerers such as philadelphus, deutzia, weigela, kolkwitzia (beauty bush) and kerria. Remove their flowered branches, easily identified by their dry twigginess, and leave untouched those long, unbranched shoots that grew during the summer and will flower next year. The branches you remove should be cut to the ground or, if a strong young branch arises from an old one, just above this branch. This will encourage the bush to make more young growth and reduce its overall bulk.
Wait until leaves fall to prune climbing and rambling roses as it’s easier to see the shape of the stems. They will flower best next year on non-flowering shoots produced this season. Remove one stem in three from the base of the plant, taking out the oldest. Tie new growth to the support using string. Prune weeping standard roses by removing stems which have flowered and leaving the new ones for next year. Reduce the height of bush roses to prevent wind-rock during the winter.
Give evergreen hedges and topiary – yew, box, escallonia, laurel, griselinia – a final trim to make sure they are in shape for winter. October is your last chance to shear over deciduous hedges such as beech, hawthorn and hornbeam to remove any stray shoots and keep them looking tidy.FruitPrune wall-trained peaches and nectarines after fruiting. Cut out the old fruited shoots and tie in as many new growths as you can fit in to replace them. In late autumn, start to winter-prune apples, pears and bush fruits. Fruit pruning is a complex subject so find a good reference guide to follow.Finally, remember, pruning is a bit like a haircut. If it goes wrong, you might miss a year’s worth of flowers or fruit but it will soon grow out.
Good Luck and Looking forward to your comments!