This newsletter will hopefully provide you with some guidelines on how to prune your fuchsias, roses, berries and other plants. Pruning is meant to be done when the weather gets cooler, but as I write this, it has been a hot, dry day with temperatures in the early 30◦C’s. Some of our garden fuchsias are having another flush of blooms. But the cooler weather is close and then we can do some pruning ...
Seasoned gardeners will tell you that the time to prune your fuchsias (and your roses) are the months with a “J” in them, i.e. January, June and July. Those old gardeners are quite correct, but to me this is a flexible guide and should be adapted to the area you live in and also the seasonal changes, taking into account global warming effects on the temperatures.
So what happens in January? Your fuchsias, if you’ve cared for them properly, should have flowered from the end of September to December. By January they may be getting a bit leggy with a few flowers at the ends. It is time for a HALF prune to promote a second flush of flowers. How much to cut back? The plant will tell you where to cut back to. Prune back the branches by about 30% to a new shoot. These shoots are just waiting to grow and flower. As soon as you remove the ends of the branches, the energy will be redirected to these young shoots. With a boost of feeding these young shoots will provide you with a second flush of flowers until at least Autumn. It is always good to remind ourselves that fuchsias flower on new growth. So promoting new, healthy growth on your plants is the aim.
Let’s now get to the main prune (June and July). Why do fuchsias (like many other plants) need a winter pruning? There are a number of reasons, viz :
1. to remove dead and diseased growth,
2. to remove weak branches,
3. to shape the plant,
4. to promote strong growth,
5. to promote flowering, and
6. to re-direct the plant’s “energy” to the most beneficial areas.
Your winter pruning could start as early as May or as late as the end of July to August, depending on how cold the Winter is in your area. Pruning in May will give you a chance of earlier flowering, but also the possibility of Uncle Jack Frost damaging those young shoots! Hopefully this Winter will be a mild one!
So how to prune? I like to take a good look at a plant and see which branches are the strong ones and those that are weak or dead. Using sharpened and disinfected pruning shears, remove all the dead and weak branches. The next step is to cut back the sturdy, last season’s branches by ½ to ⅔’s. Cut just above a node, about 10mm, with a clean right angled cut. It is best to prune to about 2 nodes above the old growth. Pruning into the old wood may cause that particular branch to die back. Remove any remaining leaves that may be harbouring any bugs or diseases.
Garden plants should now be well watered. Next add a 25cm layer of compost around the base, two handfuls of mature chicken manure and then cover with a layer of mulch, eg coarse pine bark, hay etc. Then give a good watering again. This gives the roots constant, slow-release nutrition, keeps them warm in Winter and cool in Summer. It is not necessary to loosen the soil around the plants as the worms will do this for you as they feed off the organic material. In addition, the mulch will give a good control over weed growth.
For those plants in pots, hold the pot on its side and scrape off some of the top of the potting mix. Take care not to damage those fragile surface feeder roots. Now top-dress with a mixture of potting mix, compost and chicken manure (proportion 4:4:2). Water, but take care not to over-water at this stage.
If your plant is still in its first season, and there has not been much growth, then pruning back 2/3 of the growth may be a bit drastic. In such a case, do a light pruning.
If nature works with you, the new growth will start to show in about 2 – 3 weeks time.
It is good practice to check the root health of potted plants at pruning time. Place your hand on top of the pot and turn it upside down. Firmly tap the pot on the edge of a table and it should pop off. You can now examine the root system.
If all looks in good shape and some healthy white roots are visible, replace into the same pot.
If there are a great number of matted roots, and particularly if they are circling the pot – it is time to root prune. Remove the old roots at the base, but leave the root ball beneath and around the main stem intact. Re-pot into a new pot with a mixture of compost and potting mix.
Take care after root pruning and re-potting, not to over-water or fertilise the plant. At this stage there are no leaves to make use of the fertiliser and the plant may die as a result.
My experience is that it is best to let the roots be. We have plants that have been in 25 cm pots for over 15 years without root pruning and are still perfectly healthy.
Let your motto be “If in doubt, prune – but not the roots”.
The same principles apply to pruning roses. Roses, however, prefer to be pruned slightly later in the season – about July. But a couple of weeks either side will not make too much difference.
Hybrid-T roses generally prefer the traditional process, as set out above. Floribundas and related types are more forgiving. These can be trimmed and shaped even using some hedge clippers.
With garden roses don’t worry about outward facing bud-eyes and five leaflet leaf sets. Just prune to strong, healthy growth at your desired height. And if you don’t know what a five leaflet leaf set or bud-eye is, don’t worry about it.
Pruning isn’t just for “pruning season”. Feel free to shape your roses all season long like you would any other plant in your garden. While you are deadheading is a great time! You may make a few mistakes, but never fear, it will grow back!
Mulch your roses as discussed for the fuchsias. The only difference being that with roses it is important to aerate the soil around the plants. This is particularly important in areas with “heavy” soils. Loosen the soil around the plants to a full fork length.
Spraying with a lime sulphur solution after pruning will help in keeping your roses healthy. Sealing the pruned ends with a sealant can be beneficial, if you have the time and patience. But if you don’t have either – don’t worry!
For those who have reaped the benefit of growing your own nutritious berries, they can be pruned in about June. Raspberries and youngberries will benefit if you cut them back to old stems at ground level and then mulch them with ample compost. Our raspberries are still producing berries for us for breakfast and should continue for another six weeks or so. Young suckers can be transplanted to new areas.
The same applies to blueberries where the old stems are cut back.
With gooseberries, pruning is optional. If the plant is getting too wide for its allocated area, then give it a trim. Otherwise you can let it keep on flowering and providing you with free berries.
These can be pruned in about July. There are two chains of thought with regard to pruning hydrangeas. The one is cutting back all the stems quite hard, whereas the other is cutting back only the stems that have flowered down to a healthy new shoot. If your plants are getting sufficient sunshine they will be okay, but if they are in the shade then you may only get a few blooms late in the season.
With the latter option, you should get your first flush of flowers in December (giving them the name of “Christmas roses”) and the second flush in about March. So you choose which is the best for your garden, or do some experimenting.
BULBOUS PLANTS :
Normally bulbous plants shouldn’t be cut back while the stems are still green. All the goodness in the stem needs to be absorbed back in to the bulb. The dried stems can be cut off to neaten the dormant bulb, or just left as natural mulch. My favourite super-food herb, the turmeric, is a typical example of this. Turmeric goes dormant quite late in the season, when it is time to harvest the matured tubers.
We have all you need for your mulching – compost, mature chicken manure and coarse pine bark.
Please note that the nursery will be closed from Saturday, 13th, until Saturday, 20th May 2017. We will be taking a family “walk on the wild side”. We reopen for business from Monday, 22nd May 2017.