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Most plants will thrive on 'tough love'


All too often a plant which has provided several years of glorious colour will ‘suddenly’ not perform during the summer and all too often this is due to exhaustion. Regular pruning is not something the gardener can choose to do or not to do. It has real purpose and is necessary to rejuvenate your plants.

Plants such as lavenders and hebe need a trim with the sheers to stem the inevitable tide of woody growth. They only flower on new growth. So regular pruning encourages the formation of new growth and thereby encourages flowering. Once you cut into the old wood on such plants they can not create new growth from old wood and they effectively die.

Take your herbaceous plants, they need to be left until about November to allow their energy to return to their roots for the winter. Do this too early and you cut off the returning winter fuel and over successive years the plant gets weaker and flowers less.

After about 3 to 4 years herbaceous plants will be so solid in the centre that it is difficult for that all-important new growth to come through. If left alone by year ‘5’ a herbaceous plant will become the shadow of its former self. The only way to prevent this from happening is to regularly rejuvenate your herbaceous plants by digging them up and splitting them.

The same with ornamental grasses such as stipa. Year one they look great albeit a little small, year two they look their best, but by year three the proportion of dead stems is becoming greater than the live ones. This situation increases with successive years. It’s therefore far better to grow ornamental grasses in groups of two or three and stagger their tri-annual cut back. In this way they are not all in year two or three or whatever.

The same with wisteria and other climbers. I know many gardens where the wisteria barely gets a trim, although even the books suggest trimming wisteria at least twice a year. Look at it this way. We know that wisteria loves to make lots of shoots and these shoots can be very long. So what is the point of watching a shoot get steadily longer over six months and the plant use all that energy when it will be cut after six months (on two trims annually)? Surely, it is preferably for such stems to be removed when it’s spotted growing in an unwanted fashion and thereby preserve the plant’s energy for greater flower production.

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I made the mistake of misreading my three year old lavender and lost a well established plant...I pruned down to the old wood and it just gave up. Wish I had been able to ask questions on this forum then! Thankyou Muddywellies. Awaiting the next installment.

24 Mar, 2008


i agree i was the same wth my wistera untill a gardener told me wot to do

30 Apr, 2010

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