Down in the patch

Last updated 08:46 21/02/2014

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It may seem an odd time of the season to be pruning shrubs, but that's exactly what we did at a public workshop at Tupare last Sunday.

Workshop participants learnt that the best way to maintain their shrubs is with correct pruning methods, focusing on two types of deciduous ornamental shrubs: those that produce new basal shoots from the ground straight after late spring or early summer flowering, and those that retain a permanent framework of main branches.

We pruned examples of the first group, Deutzias and Philadelphus, while the second group included shrubs such as Viburnum and Stacyhrus. These two groups of plants share the same habit of producing flowers on growth developed immediately after previous flowering.

It is important to know this, as any pruning of the plants' tips in winter would result in the flower buds being cut off.

Knowing the age of the stems that a shrub flowers from helps the gardener achieve an excellent flower display throughout their garden and keep their plants healthy, too.

So instead of sitting back in summer and ignoring the requirements of your deciduous shrubs, take your sharp secateurs and pruning saw and cut out the flowered stems to make room for the new growth coming through.

At the same time, cut out any diseased growth and prune to ensure your shrub has a balanced shape.

The shoots emerging from the base of the Deutzias we pruned are to be carefully worked around. If we accidentally snap one off at the base, then that is one less stem to show off a display of many attractive flowers. It also means that the shrub will not have a short-term framework for a couple of years' worth of flowering side shoots.

Pruning at the correct time of the season brings real benefits for your garden, more so than flying into a panic in late winter and attacking every plant in the same method with hedge shears. This ill-thought-out approach results in a thicket of spindly growth that lacks vigour and flower.

Correct pruning and training of shrubs is one of the most worthwhile tasks in the garden. Take the time to learn about the age of growth that plants flower on and you won't feel at all odd about pruning in summer.

Mitch Graham is garden manager - Tupare for the Taranaki Regional Council

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