Two Hour Gardening Project: Stage 23 Principles of Pruning

Pruning is one of those essential gardening activities that too many people just shy away from. But there’s no mystery to pruning: just good common sense. We illustrate the basic principles of pruning, but as you move into your second season of gardening with increased confidence, and find your skills improving with practice, you may want to check up in your library on the finer points of pruning.

Needs list: 1 can hormone rooting powder; 3 roots iceplant; 1 pkt soilless growing mix; 1 sack full of Cobbles/sea-washed pebbles/similar.

Time budget: 3 hours in 2 weeks

February weather/soil

March is the most fickle month in the gardening year. Sometimes warm, sometimes cold, never consistently either. Don’t let 2 or 3 days’ sun tempt you into planting early: late frosts will kill your crop. Go ahead if you can use frames, cloches, hot caps to protect the seedlings.

Flower of the Fortnight

The ice plant (Sedum spectabile) has, certainly at first glance, a rather bizarre appearance. In spite of which or perhaps because of which it’s the sort of plant people rather come to love. A native of China, it grows 18 in. high, with curious blue-green leaves and stems, which are brittle and break off easily, topped by large purplish heads of flowers – made up in fact of dozens of tiny flowers. Flower colour can vary: take your pick.

If you look around you’ll find forms with copper coloured leaves and stems. These look most exciting grown amongst the green-leaved forms. In passing, the plant’s a succulent, so you can grow it in very dry conditions, but you don’t have to.


This is the time of year for dreaming about gardens, rather than trying to do much in them. Why not treat yourself to some gardening books, to expand on the basic knowledge you’ve gained from this one? Send off for all the plant catalogues you can. Dream of gardens! Growing plants from seed needs patience.

Time to cover up the Christmas rose. Put a pane of glass on sticks, or use a cloche/tent. Keeps them fresh for picking.

Project work: pruning: the first principles

If you’ve got a woody plant in your garden – shrub, tree, vine, fruit bush or tree – sooner or later you’re going to want to or have to prune it. So it helps to know what pruning is all about. The purpose of pruning is to promote the growth of healthy flowering or fruiting wood by removing expendable, non-flowering or non-fruiting wood.

Basically there are only 3 ways of pruning: but you need to observe your plants to work out which to use on which, (a) Plants that flower on the current season’s wood : prune out wood once flowering is over. (b) Plants that produce next year’s flowers on this year’s wood : prune out last year’s flowering wood, (c) Slow-growing plants; just trim to shape every 2 or 3 years. Here are some specific examples:

Your flowering crab: lop side-branches to keep in shape, but only do it every 2 or 3 years, and do it late summer.

Pear tree: in spring, prune out dead wood. In summer, prune vertical growths of new wood back to 3 buds from the main branch. In winter cut the leading shoot back one-third of its length. Prune any suckers away from the base anytime.

Climbing rose: in sprung prune all shoots back to half their length: in summer cut out dead flower-heads and long, rampant shoots. Also prune to tidy.

Vines: in autumn prune straggly growths back to firm wood close to the trellis. Cut out dead twigs and any vigorous shoots growing in directions you never asked them to grow in. Generally tidy shrubs so that they retain their natural shape. Allow them to grow together, but not so much that they crowd each other. If they do that they’ll go bare at the base: looks hideous.

Always take good care of your pruning tools. You don’t need many. 1 good pruning knife, 1 pair pruning shears/secateurs, 1 long-arm lopper for removing small branches from high up on trees. Rule 1 is keep all pruning tools sharp as a razor. If you can’t sharpen them yourself, go back to your garden centre or return the tools to the manufacturer to sharpen for you. There’s a knack to using a pruning knife: get an old hand to show you.

24. August 2011 by admin
Categories: 2 Hour Garden, Gardening Ideas | Tags: , | Comments Off on Two Hour Gardening Project: Stage 23 Principles of Pruning


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