Shrub and Tree Guide for Late Spring

Jobs to do

Preparing the soil for planting

Late spring is the only safe time to plant some of the grey-leaved or tender shrubs, if ordered from a nursery; you may be buying container-grown plants in any case, so a little soil preparation will probably be necessary. Problems with frost and waterlogging should no longer occur and the difficulty in late spring, when forking the soil, may be hardness due to drought. However, this is easily remedied. Most weeds will be seedlings, also easily dealt with. Remember to add phosphatic fertilizer some days before planting.


Shrubs which should not be planted before late spring include cistus (rock rose), fuchsia, romneya (Californian poppy), ceratostigma (plumbago) and phlomis (Jerusalem sage). In cold districts, hebe and hibiscus are better left to the beginning of late spring before planting.

Seed which was sown in mid-spring may have produced seedlings large enough to handle by now. If so, they can be transplanted to a nursery bed where they should be left for about a year before moving to their permanent places.

From now until the end of summer, there is always the possibility of heat, combined with drought, and to endure survival of newly planted shrubs under these conditions you should have a look at them every few days and supply water if need be. Container-grown plants, whether fruits, shrubs, trees or climbers can, in theory, be planted at any time during late spring or summer, but they do seem to have a struggle to establish and need a good deal of cosseting.


Although there are some shrubs which flower quite well if left more or less alone, pruning which takes the form of nipping out the tips of the new shoots makes them produce more side-shoots and so become even more flowery. Shrubs which can be treated like this in late spring are fuchsia, cistus and phlomis (Jerusalem sage). When the new shoots are a few centimetres (inches) long, or have about three lots of buds, the tip can be pinched off as far as the next bud or pair of buds down the stem. It delays flowering, of course, but is well worth it. At the same time, if you see any dead growth’left over from winter, you can clear it out and leave more room for living stems.

On grape vines, the shoot carrying the flower cluster should be stopped at just above the second leaf beyond the cluster. Any shoots without flowers should have the tip removed at the fourth leaf and minor shoots coming from either of these should be stopped hard, just above the first leaf. This kind of stopping is preferably done when it just means taking off the tip. If the shoot has been allowed to grow six or seven leaves long, removal is a much greater shock to the plant and it may retaliate by becoming even more vigorous.

Pruning See Pruning Trees and Shrubs in Late Spring


It may be necessary to do more peach and nectarine disbudding in late spring; the shoots which were left to grow in mid-spring should be tied to the wires as they grow, spaced evenly from one another. If they prove to be crowded, or if other shoots have grown meanwhile, they should be removed. Vines need the same treatment and it is important to tie the retained shoots carefully to the wires. They are brittle and should be tied loosely to start with, gradually tightening the string or raffia until they are close against their supports. Fan-trained, wall-grown Morello cherries are pruned and trained like fan-trained peaches and tying-in of new shoots, as well as removal of unwanted ones, can start now.

Fan-trained, wall-grown apricots seem to fruit much more satisfactorily in temperate climates if only pruned a little, but this leads to bare branches in the centre and fruiting towards the tips. It can be avoided by pinching out most of the new, strong, unwanted shoots from spurs or branches early in late spring, keeping one or two in the centre, to replace the bare oldes.t shoots which have been removed in winter.


main flowering season for rhododendron is late spring, but it can extend to winter and late summer

The shrubs which benefit from this and look better as a result, are rhododendron, azalea, pieris, camellia if the dead flowers tend to hang and lilac as it finishes flowering.


Some formal hedges are exceedingly quick growing and need a clip over several times a year. If you only trim them once or twice a year they will gradually become taller, bare at the base and will eventually need a ruthless, hard cut. Hedges to trim towards the end of late spring include Lonicera nitida (it has tiny round evergreen leaves), gorse, hawthorn, privet and myrobalan (Prunus cerasifera). If you are short of time, this trimming can wait until the beginning of early summer without much harm.


Late spring is the time when the soil should be moist, as well as warm; putting on a mulch now, once the ground has been freed from weeds, helps make sure that roots will have a supply of moisture deep down when the hot weather comes. Organic mulches stop the soil from cracking in a drought, encourage worms in the soil and supply nutrients. They can be rotted garden compost, spent hops, leaf-mould, seaweed, rotted, chopped-up young green bracken, which contains a lot of potash, farm manure, spent mushroom compost or peat. Don’t be put off by the word ‘spent’ to describe mushroom compost; it still contains a good deal of food and humus-providing material, which makes it extremely good for ordinary plants. However, if it is being sold in sacks door-to-door, be careful that it does not contain lumps of chalk, otherwise it can wreak havoc on your rhododendrons. Peat is quite safe for plants that like acid soil; the drawback is that it contains very little plant food besides nitrogen and even that is released to plant roots only very slowly.

Mulches should be at least 5cm (2in) thick, spread all over the area which the roots reach; they can spread sideways underground as far as the branches or top growth do above ground. Trees, climbers, and roses can all be mulched, as well as the general run of shrubs; it does no harm to mulch hedges, too, if you have enough material to spare. Plants growing close to walls benefit particularly from mulching; the soil there may already be getting dry, so water first if need be.

Tree fruit is generally given a top dressing in autumn, but if the soil-is a ‘hot’, quick-draining one, a mulch now would be preferable. Straw is better than nothing and will have rotted down by autumn. Water-in an application of hoof and horn meal or sulphate of ammonia before putting it on, otherwise a temporary shortage of nitrogen will occur, while the bacteria get to work on decomposing the straw. Wall-grown vines will give the best crops if mulched heavily, with a 10cm (4in) layer.


Any plant which grows next to a wall or a fence is not only sheltered from cold, but from rain as well. As it is often facing south or west, the temperature gets hotter than other parts of the garden, so water is at a premium. Wisteria is practically always grown up a house or garden wall and is a very thirsty plant. Lack of water is probably one of the main reasons for lack of flowers on wisterias; the buds simply drop off, as they do from runner beans or sweetpeas, when they are growing in drought conditions. Fan-trained peaches grown with a wall backing them must have enough water all the way through the growing season. If they have a feast-or-famine water supply, the fruit drops or splits, or the stones crack.

A good watering with a sprinkler for two or three hours may be necessary every fortnight, or even every week, depending on the weather and soil type, for all plants in this position.


The peach, nectarine and apricot thinning started in mid-spring may run on into late spring, depending on the season and district, but it should be possible to finish it early in late spring.

If vines start to flower during the next few weeks, they should be thinned to leave one bunch of embryo fruit to every 30cm (12in) of main stem.


Continue to tie in climbing plants, trained tree fruit and wall-grown shrubs as they grow. Rambling roses and clematis in particular will need regular tying if they are to provide their best displays.


If you have any apple trees which are producing many strong new shoots but only a little fruit, you can encourage them to carry blossom and set fruit instead, by removing two half-rings of bark from the trunk. The rings should be 0.6-12cm (1/4 – 1/2|in) wide, one 2.5cm (1in) above the other. Using a sharp knife, take the bark away down to the wood and then cover the exposed surface with insulating tape while it heals.

Treating pests and diseases

The tree fruits are the main targets for attack in this and the remaining seasons of summer and autumn. Besides such plagues as peach-leaf curl, greenfly, scab, mildew and caterpillars already mentioned, there may also be capsid bug, sawfly caterpillars (which eat the fruitlets), red spicier mite, leaf sucker and leaf hopper, pear midge and pear-leaf blister mite, and bacterial canker of cherry and plum liable to infect the shoots, flowers and fruit.

On the ornamentals, peony wilt, clematis wilt, holly-leaf miner, rhododendron bud blast, black spot, mildew and leaf-rolling sawfly on the roses, slugs and fire-blight are possible plagues. The latter can infest tree fruit as well, and grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) is a universal fungus disease.

This seems a formidable list of troubles, but it only consists of the most common ones, perhaps a tenth of all those which might infect your plants. However, it is unlikely that what you grow will be affected by even the common kinds all at once, all the way through the growing season. This is the time when they hatch or come to life but it is probable that you will have to deal only with a few of them and — if your plants are well grown and strong — they will be much less severely damaged.

Remember that cutting out as soon as seen or hand-picking often does all that needs to be done; the birds, too, will help you for a change, as they will have nests full of newly hatched young, demanding food.

General Work

Regular jobs include weeding, compost-heap building, hydrangea blueing and orchard-sward mowing.

30. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Trees and Shrubs | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Shrub and Tree Guide for Late Spring


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