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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Pruning

a bit of pruning

Ask the gardener: Pruning

Want to know when to cut it back or how to prune it? Find out all you need to know...

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out…… at least that's the theory!

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Lorna asks...

When do I prune my tree peony?  It is not doing so well this year.  I have never pruned it before and it is now 4 ft tall

Bill replies...

Tree Peonies Lorna do not apart from removing weak stems and dead shoots require regular pruning.  If however the shoots do become crowded then older shoots after flowering can be cut back.  It is also well worthwhile to apply a general base fertiliser early March time and late summer.

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Elsie Stanley asks...

I have a 10-15 year old (approx) teton pyracantha hedge about four to five feet high facing north, against a slatted fence. It is forcing the fence to lean over on to a public footpath. To repair the fence, can I cut the hedge right down to about a foot and start regrowing sucessfully? When would be the best time to do this, there are some dead branches in among the new growth this season, can you help me please, it has been a good strong boundary deterrent.

Bill replies...

The time to prune back your Pyrancantha Hedge is spring/early summer time Elsie and you will need to cut back the dead branches and then prune back to new growth.  I do not feel there is a need to cut your hedge back to one foot, two to three feet would be sufficient and still enable you to replace your slatted fence.  Once you have replaced your fence it would be worthwhile to give the hedge a feed with a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal which will give the new shoots a boost.

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Suzanne James asks...

I have bought a prunus avium plena and have just realised that when fully grown it will be about 50 feet, can I keep it pruned to stop it growing so big?

Bill replies...

Your Prunus Avium will grow to a height of fifty feet Suzanne but yes, you can prune it back and the time for pruning is during the summer period to avoid infection from Silver Leaf Fungal Disease.  One of the problems you will encounter with growing this large species is that they do produce a very vigorous root system and quite a number of these roots are near the soil surface and these can cause problems in your garden.

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Anne Cahill asks...

I just planted hostas.  They look very straggly.. should I prune them back?

Bill replies...

Even though your Hosta leaves are looking very straggly Anne they will be providing nutrients for your plant and you would be far better waiting until some new leaves appear before cutting back some of the straggly leaves.

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Madeline Dunn asks...

I purchased a bottle brush last year. It has some frost damage - should I prune the frost damaged branches?

Bill replies...

The time Madeline to prune your Bottle Bush (Callistemon) plant is springtime and you will need to cut back any frost damaged branches, and you should find that providing not all the shoots have been damaged, your plant will start to shoot again.  Bottle Bush plants love to be planted in a well drained soil but in a sunny sheltered position and it is important that you avoid frost pockets.

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Mary asks...

I have a butterfly bush that is about 12 years old which is looking very sparse and woody but we have got blue tits nesting nearby so they use the tree to get food so we are reluctant to cut it back. Can you please advise when and how to get it back to its full glory?

Bill replies...

The time to prune your Butterfly (Buddleia) bush Mary is early springtime and you can cut back into the old wood to encourage new shoots.  You have however this year to take into account the Blue Tits which are nesting near your tree but next year will to be fine to prune your tree early springtime before nesting commences.  As you will be aware flowers appear on the new shoots and the blue tits/butterflies will be able to feed on the nectar.

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Jason Benton asks...

My wife and I moved house in June of last year and were lucky enough to have inherited a lovely garden. The back of the house is south facing and on the right hand side of the patio we have a passion flower covering about 4 panels of fencing. When we moved in the passion flower was in a wonderful condition, green foliage, wonderfully scented large flowers and then a lot of what I believe to be fruit, of a bright orange. However towards the end of the summer the plant had become a rather evasive intruder onto our patio and my wife decided to trim it back a tad. Over the winter the plant has deteriorated and is now looking very distressed. Is this normal and will we get anything like the fantastic flowers we had last June> The last owner had grown the plant from seed and boasted of 84 flowers one summer. I would hate to think that after only one year after inheriting this wonderful garden we have in some way contributed to this plants demise. Please can you help!

Bill replies...

You are far better Jason waiting until spring to prune back your Passion Flower rather than during the winter months but it would also be well worthwhile during the autumn time to give the soil around your plant a mulch with some well rotted manure or any organic material to protect the roots from frost over the winter months.  You will find with Passion Flowers that late frost will cause die back of some of the shoots but you usually find that new shoots appear late springtime.  If, due to unfortunate circumstances, your plant has completely died and you intend to replace it, I would recommend that the variety Passiflora Caerulea which is the most popular species and is hardy enough to be grown outside in a south facing aspect.

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Mike Craven asks...

What is the best time to prune Hypericum Hidcote?

Bill replies...

The time to prune your Hypericum Hidcote is springtime Mike when the shoots can be pruned back to approximately to one third of the growth.  Hypericum Hidcote is a beautiful shrub and will grow to a height of approximately six feet in a wide range of soils and the golden yellow flowers are magnificent throughout the summer months. 

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Louise asks...

As a novice gardener I neglected my philadelphus in the first year we moved into our house, and pruned it the at the wrong time in our second year - subsequently I have lost all but a couple of flowers which were in profusion when we first moved in as it was Spring. Please can you offer advice as to how I can rectify this and get flowers again?

Bill replies...

Philadelphus (Mock Orange) is a lovely shrub and will grow in a wide range of soils and the time Louise to prune your Philadelphus is early summertime after flowering and, if you have not pruned your Philadelphus for the past twelve months I am sure that you will get a mass of flowers this year.  The flowers are produced in the older shoots and the previous season's growth.

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Diana asks...

I have an eleagnus which is about 8ft high, and very bare and woody at the base. Will it survive very hard pruning and shoot from old wood? If so, what time should this be done? I would like to reduce it to about 3ft.

Bill replies...

Eleagnus species Diane are one of the favourite shrubs used in landscaping schemes around Supermarkets and Retail Parks and, these shrubs can be pruned back into the old wood when they grow too large, and I myself would carry out pruning early springtime. It does take a while for the shrubs to recover but they will produce new shoots.

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Louise asks...

I moved into my current house 2 springs ago and didn't recognise what I have now discovered to be a philadelphus. I incorrectly pruned it in its first year and have neglected to prune after flowering this year as I received conflicting advice on the best way to prune it. Is there any way to remedy this and encourage flowers in the future?

Bill replies...

I would wait Louise until your Philadelphus (Mock Orange) has flowered during early summer time before pruning as the flowers are produced on the older wood and the previous season's growth.  If your shrub is getting too large you can prune back the older branches to ground level and this will stimulate new growth and, again this most be done immediately after flowering.  You will find that Philadelphus plants will tolerate growing in a wide range of soils and are also quite happy growing in neglected and very poor soils.

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Peter Wood asks...

I have an over zealous King James 1st Mulberry tree that stands a little over twenty five feet tall that I'd like to cut down to around fifteen feet, but am concerned by how much sap it bleeds when cut. Is it likely to survive a ten foot chop & when's best to do it?! Thanks!

Bill replies...

The most popular Mulberry tree grown in English gardens Peter is the Black Mulberry (Morus Nigra) which produces beautiful red fleshy edible berries and, the tree will grow to approximately twenty five to thirty feet.  With regard to pruning I am afraid that Mulberry Trees do not take kindly to hard pruning and therefore would advise just light pruning - removing any dead and diseased branches over the winter period.  With your tree already been twenty five feet high it will be fully grown and, if you can 'live' with your tree being so high as mentioned above I would be very reluctant to prune heavily.

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Michelle asks...

My rubber plant is getting far too tall, in fact it is higher than the ceiling! Can I prune it without killing it (as I am quite fond of it).

Bill replies...

The time to prune your Rubber Plant Michelle is early summer time when the sap is just beginning to rise again and you will need to cut back just above a leaf and new shoots will start to appear from the leaf axis but, it will take quite a few weeks before new shoots start to appear.  You will however need to keep an eye on the watering and feed occasionally.

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Barbara Sherborne asks...

Can you please tell me when and how to prune an hibiscus plant? It was only planted this year.

Bill replies...

The Hibiscus shrub is a lovely flowering plant Barbara and very little pruning is required except for removing any damaged stems or diseased branches.  If in time your Hibiscus shrub grows too large it can be pruned back early springtime - just above one of the new shoots appearing on the stems.

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Dr R Gentle asks...

Curry plant... when and how much to prune? It has a lot of ugly dry wood at base, do I chop the whole lot off to ground level? I want to keep it low and neat. 

Bill replies...

The Curry Plant (Helichrysum Splendidum) Dr Gentle is a beautiful silver leafed aromatic shrub and responds well to hard pruning and the previous season's growth can be pruned back hard and, the time to prune your Curry Plant is early springtime.

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Tom asks...

Hi Bill, I have looked in your questions and answers and none seem to fit my question.
I have a slow growing conifer it’s not a leylandi but a similar type which is about 12 years old. Now it’s about 9ft high and I would like to cut 3 feet off the top. What’s the best time of year to do this? Many thanks

Bill replies...

The time to prune Evergreens/Conifers Tom is springtime but, you will need to be careful when pruning the top three feet off your Conifer - do not cut it straight across as this will look quite 'odd' - you will need to try and shape it.

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Jackie asks...

l have a very overgrown group of hydrangea bushes, could l cut them hard back this autumn or should l wait until next spring? Also l am having to move a very old Wisteria, as we are building an extension, do you have any tips?

Bill replies...

I would wait until the spring to prune your Hydrangea Bushes as the overgrown shoots and flower heads will give protection to the shoots at lower level and in early springtime you can cut the old stems back to just above the lower young shoots.  This will obviously restrict the number of flowers you will have next year.  With regard to your Wisteria which due to building work needs to be moved you will need to prune the plant back before moving it and it is important to try and get a large root ball out of the ground.  If you do have on site a mechanical digger this would be ideal in ensuring you have a large root ball.

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Jean Bracewell asks...

Can I prune an old rhododendron? It is beautiful in May when it flowers but all the growth is on the edges of very straggly branches, it is approx. 5ft high. Thanks

Bill replies...

You can prune your old Rhododendron back Jean and the time to do this is early springtime after flowering.  It will take quite a while for new shoots to appear in the old wood but this should occur late summertime.  To protect the stems after pruning you can treat with a sealant such as Arbrex which is available at Garden Centres.

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Ann Williams asks...

Should I prune perennial wallflowers? When I have tried this previously I seemed to kill them. However they are looking woody.

Bill replies...

I am afraid Ann that your Perennial Wallflowers (Erysimum) are a short lived perennial and although they do produce masses of flowers throughout the spring and summer months they are not long lasting and therefore there is no point in pruning these plants.

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David Greene asks...

We have a very overgrown variegated hebe. Can I cut it back and if so when is the best time please?

Bill replies...

Your variegated Hebe can be cut back hard David and it will shoot and bush again.  The time to do this is early springtime when the sap is beginning to rise and new shoots will appear through the summer months. 

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Michael Hughes asks...

I have a potted camelia which flowered very well last year. We had a problem this year, with no flowers at all. It looks very healthy, leaves are green and glossy, and is growing well. We want to prune but don't know when we should do this, or what we should try to have flowers next year.

Bill replies...

The time to prune Camellias Michael is early summertime after flowering but, you will be able to get away with pruning at this time of year (August) and what you need to do is to cut the shoots back to just above a set of leaves but I would be inclined not to prune back too hard.  Regarding flowering the buds are being formed early autumn time and it is important to keep an eye on the watering and also you will need to feed with a recommend Camellia fertiliser.

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Shirley Bakewell asks...

When should I prune my Clematis Montana?

Bill replies...

Your Clematis Montana is one of the most popular varieties grown Shirley.  It is a very vigorous variety and is ideal for covering fencing, walls and trellis work.  With it being an early flowering variety the time to prune back is after flowering.  The flowers are produced on the older shoots and the previous seasons growth.  If your plant is getting too large Montana is a tough species and will stand pruning back hard.

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Shanthie Wild asks...

I have a very overgrown rosemary bush which has not been pruned at all in about 6 years. It really needs to be reduced in size by half, will it recover if I cut into the old wood? What should I do? Very grateful for your advice.

Bill replies...

You can prune your Rosemary Bush back to three feet and this needs to be done early spring/summer time and new shoots will appear but, it will take time to recover.  I would also recommend you play safe by taking cuttings from your Rosemary.  These cuttings need to be three to four inches long - remove the bottom leaves and insert around the side of a five inch pot in sharp potting compost (fifty/fifty sharp grit compost mix) and these cuttings can be kept outside in a sheltered position.  I would also recommend dipping the cuttings in a rooting hormone before inserting in the compost.

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Pam asks...

My wegeila bush which I just planted in a large pot this year is very straggly and growing out about 3 foot wide it has not flowered should I prune it back to shape it? It is partly in sun and part shade

Bill replies...

If your Wegeila Bush is very straggly you can prune it back hard Pam and it will start to shoot and bush again and the time to do this is after flowering.  Although it is a little bit late now (July) you can still prune your Wegeila back and it will produce flowering shoots for next year

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Mary Holmes and Wendy Woodhouse ask...

I have several large camellias that are taking up much space and blocking other plants. How and when can I prune and shape them? They have just about finished flowering. Many thanks.

Bill replies...

The correct time for pruning Camellias is after flowering and you can prune back to just above a new shoot or a leaf scar. Established Camellias can be pruned back into the older branches and they will regenerate but, I find that the easiest method is to prune just above a new shoot.  If your plants are very large you can prune back to older shoots to rejuvenate your shrubs.

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Bill Boynton asks...

We have a hedge that I think is Cotoneaster Simonsii.  It has probably been in situ for 34 years since this house was built.  It grows quite vigorously and I trim the top down several times each spring/summer.  It is up to 1 metre deep and tends also to grow inwards, overhanging the lawn. I would really like to cut it back hard in the vertical plane which would remove most of the greenery.  What would be the outcome of such drastic treatment?

Bill replies...

You can prune your Contoneaster Simonsii hard back Bill and it will shoot again and the time to prune your hedge is spring early summer time - basically you need to do it as soon as possible (it is now early May).

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Adrian Bacon asks...

We have a Bottle Bush which has grown over 7 feet tall and some bits were broken off in the gales last month. We have a white hebe growing up in the middle of it, which provides a great contrast to the red Bottle Bush. How far back can we prune the Bottle Bush back. If we cut it back to say four feet we would cut all the flowers off - would they re-grow?

Bill replies...

Your Bottle Bush (Calistemon Citrus Splendans) plant Adrian is widely grown in New Zealand and Australia and is also quite happy growing in this country providing that it is planted in a sheltered and preferably south facing aspect.  Regarding pruning Bottle Bush plants do not require regular pruning but, you can cut back old shoots and new shoots will appear, and the time to prune your tree is early springtime. 

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Angela Arnold asks...

We have a large Olearia variagated it is too tall I want to prune it when would be the best time, and how much can I take off, it is over 6 feet (in 2years)

Bill replies...

Olearia (the Daisy Bush) has beautiful white flowers and is widely grown in coastal areas and they will tolerate being cut back quite hard. The time to prune the shrub is early spring time.

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John Edwards asks...

How and when do you halve a fuschia bush?

Bill replies...

The time to prune your Fuschia Bush John is early springtime and if your Fuschia is one of the hardy species it can be cut back quite hard and will start to shoot again.

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Angela Vose asks...

I've just bought a Ceanothus called Italian Skies approx 3 ft tall, and has very small buds ready to flower. It is quite slender ie not bushy. I wanted to train it into a standard - can you tell me if this is possible as I read they didn't like hard pruning?

Bill replies...

Ceanothus (California Lilac) do not like hard pruning Angela but if your Ceanothus has a main leading stem which you can use as your standard I am sure that you will be able to trim the slender branches back to your main leader and the time to prune is Springtime.  Ceanothus need to be planted in a sheltered but south facing position.

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J Windess asks...

I am having an oak tree pruned, can I use the mulch straightaway?

Bill replies...

If you mix fresh chipped bark into the soil it will take all the nitrogen from the soil in order for the bark to break down.  But freshly chipped bark is ideal for pathways and you can use as a mulch on top of the soil, the only problem being is that if the mulch gets embedded into the soil it will take nutrients from the soil.  To offset this problem if you have shrubs growing in these areas you will need to apply more fertiliser to these areas to offset the loss.

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Lynne asks...

How do I prune my red robin, it is growing tall without much shape.

Bill replies...

You can prune your Photinia Red Robin springtime Lynne and they will stand hard pruning.  After pruning to give your shrub a boost I would top dress with a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal or GrowMore.  By regular clipping your Photinia you do encourage more red shoots and leaves.

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Eric Bharucha asks...

What is best time to prune an overgrown copper beech hedge and can I do it in March or will it kill the hedge?

Bill replies...

The time to cut back your Cooper Beech Eric is during the dormant period and providing you do this within the next few weeks it will be fine but, I would be careful not to cut it too hard back into the old wood as it will take time to recover.  Regarding cutting/trimming your Beech Hedge this can be carried out during the late summer months using an ordinary pair of garden shears.

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Rob Jones asks...

I have a summer flowering Jasmine, when should I prune and how much? The plant is now huge yet flowers only a little. My winter Jasmine is fine.

Bill replies...

The summer flowering Jasmine (Jasmine Officinale) Rob requires very little pruning except for thinning out crowded and unwanted shoots after flowering and is far better growing up a trellis frame or against a south face wall and to encourage flowering I would feed your Jasmine with sulphate of potash which will harden the shoots and encourage flowering - four ounces per sq yard applied early March will hopefully help your Jasmine to flower.

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Marian asks...

I've grown a Bottle Brush Bush from seed. It seems to like the sun and has done well but needs tidying up - it's a bit straggly.  When and how do I do it please Bill?

Bill replies...

The Bottle Bush plant (Callistemon Citrinus Splendens) Marian is a lovely flowering shrub and as the name suggests the red flowers are similar to bottle brushes.  You are correct in saying that your plant loves the sun, it grows in abundance in Australia and New Zealand and quite a number of people in this country just grow the plant in their conservatories but, it will survive outside if planted in a south facing sheltered position.  You write that your plant is becoming a bit straggly and you can tidy your plant up but, if your plant is outside I would wait until the mid of April before doing this.  Congratulations on growing your Bottle Brush from seed.

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Jennifer asks...

When can I prune back an overgrown weigela in an established garden/house which we have just bought.  I think it should have been cut back after flowering, but can it be cut back now, before new growth starts?  Thanks!

Bill replies...

You can prune back your Weigela before the new growth starts Jennifer and if it is a very large plant you can cut back hard into the old wood and it will shoot again. By pruning hard back you will restrict the number of flowers on your shrub this year.  You are correct in saying that Weigelas should be pruned after flowering (early Summer time) and the new shoots that appear throughout the summer months will be the flowering shoots for next year.  I would prune back your Weigela early Springtime.

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Sherry Worley asks...

My eucalyptus tree is a thin column about 15-18 feet tall.  It has been nearly blown out of the ground in the recent winds and has also lost its silver colour, the leaves are now green.  Is it possible to saw it off at about 3 feet to regenerate and keep it smaller with silver new growth?  If I can't prune it back hard it will have to come down altogether as we are in a very open and windy situation.  Is it worth a try?

Bill replies...

You can pollard/cut back your tree Sherry and I would be inclined to cut it back as soon as possible due to the damage caused by recent winds.  It is quite common for Eucalyptus to be coppiced back each year and in the Springtime you will get masses of young shoots appearing.

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Rebecca Homer-Ward asks...

How hard can I prune my griselinia hedge and should I only prune it in the summer?

Bill replies...

Griselinia Rebecca is a very popular evergreen shrub and does make a beautiful hedge and is an ideal plant to use in coastal areas, the leaves will tolerate salt spray.  Griselinias do not like regular pruning but you will have to shorten some of the longer shoots to keep your hedge in shape and also the lateral shoots.  It is just a matter of light pruning to keep the shape of your hedge and the time for pruning is May/June.

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James Spencer asks...

I have been asked to prune a Hawthorn hedge that is 5 foot high to about 2 foot high. My question is when should this be undertaken and will pruning the hedge this much be a problem?

Bill replies...

Hawthorns are very tough plants James and they can be pruned back hard and will shoot again in the Springtime.  The time to prune your hedge is during the dormant period - October to February - and I find the best method of pruning a Hawthorn hedge is by layering the hedge.  Unless you have had experience of layering it is not an easy task to undertake but, if you look at farmers hedges you will see quite a number of them will have been layered and this will give some idea of how to layer your own hedge.

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Colin Coombs asks...

When should I prune (if at all) an established (5years) Conference Pear Tree? Also when should Victoria Plum trees be pruned? Again, when should I prune my Espalier
Peach tree of 4years?

Bill replies...

The structure and frame work of your Pear Tree Colin should now be in shape and your tree will most probably have been grafted onto a quince a root stock which, means that your tree will grow to approximately 25 feet.  The time to prune your tree is during the dormant period October/February time and a lot will depend on how vigorous your Pear has grown regarding pruning.  What you probably could is to prune back last seasons branch leaders to approximately half their size and any dead and diseased shoots need to be removed.

Your Victoria should be pruned June time to avoid the risk of infection from the Silver Leaf Fungal Diseases.  Very little pruning is required except for thinning out overcrowded shoots and again dead and diseased shoots need to be removed.  Any pruned stems would be better treated with a tree sealant such as Arbrex.

On the question of your Peach Tree these are usually grown as a bush tree or fanned shaped against a wall.  With fanned shaped Peach Trees these are pruned early summer time with the aim of cutting some of the old fruiting shoots back and training in new shoots.  It is going to be impossible to use this method for your Espalir Peach and I am unware of Peaches being grown using this system.

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Nick Hadfield asks...

How much can I prune my red dogwood and when is the best time? Thank you.

Bill replies...

The ornamental Red Dogwood Shrub (Cornus) can be cut back 4 to 6 inches from base level and the time to prune your Dogwood Nick is early Springtime.  Through the Summer months you will then get an abundance of new shoots which will give you the coloured red stems during the Winter period.  I would also advise that during the Spring you should give your Dogwood a liberal dressing of a base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal.

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Jimmy asks...

How do I prune my finest orchid now that all the flowers have dropped off?

Bill replies...

Once your Orchid has finished flowering Jimmy you will need to cut the flower stem back to just above the first or second stem scar/notch from where your Orchard started flowering and during the winter months your Orchard needs to be kept in a warm room approximately 10 degrees centigrade in good light conditions.  You will need to water once/twice a week - do not overwater and again, occasionally feed with a liquid fertiliser.

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Tony Campbell asks...

I have bought a new house and in the garden in a large over grown fuschia 12 feet deep 15 feet high and 30 feet long. It flowered fantastically and I do not want to lose it but it looks a mess. How hard can I cut it back and when would it be the best time to cut it?

Bill replies...

The time to prune your Fuchsia Tony is early spring and you can cut back quite hard into the old wood and it will shoot again.  You mention having some straggly branches and if they are getting in the way you can trim these back now. (November)

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Rosie asks...

I live in South Yorkshire. At what time of year should I prune/trim my Green Ash tree?

Bill replies...

The Ash Tree (Fraxinus Excelsior) is a beautiful tree Rosie and is part of the British landscape and it is one of the first trees to shed its leaves in the autumn.  Ash Trees do not require much pruning but if you do need to trim your tree now is the time when your tree is dormant and, you need to prune the shoots just above the black buds.

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George Santulli asks...

When is the best time to trim hardy Hibiscus?

Bill replies...

Many thanks for your question George regarding pruning your Hibiscus plant and the correct time for pruning is early Spring.  They do not require a lot of pruning - just a matter of removing dead and damaged stems.  However, if your Hibiscus is getting too large you can lightly prune some of the shoots - again this needs to be carried out early Spring.

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Cliff Crofts asks...

How hard do I prune my gunnera and when? Do I just cover over the cut shoots with the leaves? Kind regards.

Bill replies...

During the winter months your Gunnera will need to be protected from frost and what you will need to do Cliff is to cover the central growing part of your plant with a good thick layer of dry straw and you can bend the old leaves over the straw to protect the plant.  You can also cover your plant with a layer of white fleece which can be obtained from Garden Centres.  Your plant will need protection until late Spring.

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Mary Joan asks...

I have a very old holly bush that is blocking our view from the sunroom window.  Can I cut it back a couple of feet without hurting it.  If so, when is the right time?

Bill replies...

The time  Mary to prune your Holly Bush Mary is early Spring - just when the sap is beginning to rise - and you will be able to cut it back two feet (making sure that you use a sharp saw) without damaging the Holly Bush.

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Adrian asks...

I have a Damson Tree which is around 12' to the tallest branch. It has gone very straggly and I would like to prune the tree. What is the best advise you can give please?

Bill replies...

I would wait until early Summer before pruning your Damson Tree Adrian - this will cut down on the chances of your tree being infected by the Silver Leaf Fungi disease, the air borne spores are more active during the winter period.  Again to avoid infection once you have pruned your tree I would treat the cuts with Aborex Sealant.

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T Salmon-Cox asks...

When is the best time to prune a salix flamingo it was shaped like a ball when we moved in to the property in January and has looked beautiful all summer. It is now looking untidy

Bill replies...

The time to prune your Salix is during the winter months when the plant is dormant and I would recommend using a sharp pair of secateurs to avoid bruising the young shoots.

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Barbara Keith asks...

When do I prune my roses? I've read that it should be done in the Spring but I thought it should be done about now. How far from the ground do I go? They have produced a poor show this year so do I need to spray them or feed them before winter?

Bill replies...

If I could start with the last part of your question first Barbara - your rose trees are now entering their dormant period (November) and will not require feeding until early Spring.  If your trees have been infected by black spot or rust diseases you will need to remove all the infected fallen leaves and burn them.  On the question of pruning your rose trees this should be carried out early Spring and the type of pruning will depend on what species you have in your garden ie Hybrid Tea Roses, Floribunda Roses or Shrub Roses, and if you could email BBC Radio Lancashire with your types of roses I will then be able to answer your question on pruning.

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Suzanne Trim asks...

How should I prune/cut back my Bird Of Paradise plant after flowering please?

Bill replies...

The Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Reginae) is a beautiful plant Suzanne and congratulations on your success on getting your plant to produce the stunning flowers.  Regarding pruning all that is required is that when your flower has completely died - cut the stem back to base leaves - and during the winter months your plant needs to be placed in a very light position in the house, feeding occasionally during the spring/summer months.

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Linda Eccleston asks...

I have a beautiful peonie when can I cut it back?

Bill replies...

You will need to wait Linda until your Peony leaves have died back naturally before cutting the leaves down to ground level.  I realise that at this time of year they do look unsightly but if you can leave them for approximately two more weeks it will be beneficial for your plant next year.  I would also next Spring give your Peony a liberal dressing with an organic base fertiliser.

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Jenni Gooch asks...

I have a standard bay tree in a pot by my door, which is 7 years old.  I have repotted it twice during this time into a pot one size larger each time.  It has become very thin and straggly and although has healthy green leaves at the end of the branches, it is just wood in the centre, and is also losing its "lollypop"  Should I prune it back, and if so by how much and when?

Bill replies...

I would wait until early Spring before pruning your Bay Tree Jenni and in the Spring you will need to cut back the straggly shoots and you will also need to shape your tree. I find I get the best results by just using a sharp pair of secateurs.  I would also in early Spring give your Bay Tree a boost by applying a top dressing of base fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 or GrowMore.

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Nina Fournier asks...

Do I cut lupins right down in the autumn?

Bill replies...

You will need to wait until the leaves of your Lupins have gone brown and yellowed before cutting them back Nina and this also applies to the flower stems which can be cut back to the base in the Autumn.  What I would then do next Spring is to give your Lupins a top dressing with a general base fertiliser such Vitex Q4 or Fish Blood and Bone Meal.

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Chris asks...

Can you tell me the best time and method of pruning a myrtle bush? Thanks for your help.

Bill replies...

Your Myrtle Bush Chris does not need regular pruning - all you will need to do is remove any frost damaged shoots and any straggly pieces  Your plant will produce white flowers during July/August and they like the leaves are fragrant.  In the olden days it was often propagated from a sprig from a Brides Bouquet.  In the winter months you will need to protect your plant from extreme frost and bad weather conditions and it is often wise to place your plant in a greenhouse or porch.

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Mary Lewis asks...

When is the best time to prune a ceanothus and how much can be cut off? It is about six feet tall and I would like to reduce the size.

Bill replies...

If your Ceanothus California Lilac is the evergreen type very little pruning is required.  If your plant is the decidous type Mary the previous seasons growth can be cut back each year by approximately four to six inches every Spring.  You mention reducing the size of your Ceanothus and from my personal experience Ceanothus do not like hard pruning but, if you do need to reduce the size I would prune your plant now while it is actively growing.

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Jim Halliday asks...

The last few flowers are dropping of my clematis, is it time to give it a prune? It has been in for about 20 years. Thank you.

Bill replies...

The early flowering Clematis Jim - such as Clematis Montana and Alpine flower on the older wood and for this reason the correct time to prune the early flowering species is after they have finished flowering and this will apply to your Clematis.

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Donna Stephens asks...

When is the best time to trim my acer and how much do I trim off?

Bill replies...

Acers do tend to bleed a little if you trim back in the summer months and I would suggest you prune your Acer Donna in the autumn time when your plant is dormant or early spring time before it has come into leaf.

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Ann asks...

When re-potting my rubber plant, what would be the best soil to use and is it possible to cut it back at the same time and how would I do this? The plant is 30 years old and I don't want to lose it. Thank you.

Bill replies...

For large plants such as your Rubber Plant Ann I would repot into a 50/50 mixture of a multipurpose peat based compost and also a soil based compost such a John Innes No 2 or No 3.  I find this mixture is an ideal medium for a wide range of large plants.  On the question of cutting back your Rubber Plant, I would wait until late Spring time when your plant will be actively growing again and, using a sharp pair of secateurs you need to cut the stem just above a leaf.

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Chris O asks...

When and how do I prune curry plants and lavender - they are both looking a bit leggy now. Thanks!

Bill replies...

The Curry Plant (Helichrysum) grows into quite a large but straggly plant and the correct time for pruning your plant Chris is March/early April time when any straggly shoots can be cut back and the previous years growth can be also cut back quite hard.  With your Lavender plants - when they have finished flowering the flower stalks should be cut right back and again any straggly shoots can also be cut back.  Lavenders do not like hard pruning but if you do require new plants these can easily be propagated from cuttings.

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Anne Marino asks...

How and when do I prune a hydrangeas? I have a cutting from my late mum's plant.  It is in a large plant pot and seems to be taking over, there are about 20 flowers on it quite big ones, but it is spreading outwards and keeps getting knocked.

Bill replies...

If you take a look down the stems of your Hydrangeas Anne there should be quite a number of young shoots appearing and you can prune the stems back just above the new shoots and this needs to be done early Spring time.  I would, over the winter months, leave the flower heads on the plant - this will give some protection to the shoots below.  Hydrangeas are very greedy plants and need regular feeding throughout the summer months plus being well watered.

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Lynn McKinnell asks...

I have two gorgeous evening primrose plants and I was wanting to know how I prune them and at what time off year?

Bill replies...

The Evening Primrose (Oenothera) is a wonderful plant Lynn and basically all you need to do is to cut the dead flower spikes down to base level in the autumn.  The Evening Primrose thrive in a well drained soil but if you have another long hot dry summer next year you will need to water the plants.

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Janet Diggins asks...

I have a eucalyptus tree and it is in a very large tub but has grown very tall and keeps falling over. I know you shouldn't prune at this time of year but it is dangerous and needs urgent attention is there anything I can paint on to stop the sap bleeding?

Bill replies...

You will need to prune your Eucalyptus back Janet but at the present time I would just cut it back enough to make your plant stable from falling over.  The correct time for pruning is early April - when there is little chance of your Eucalyptus being damaged by late frosts.  With Eucalyptus you can prune back hard into the main stems and branches and they will shoot again quite freely.  If you prune on a fine day the cut stems will soon heal over.

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Wendi asks...

How do you trim a Japanese weeping cherry tree? Do you trim everything from the bottom so that the top remains?

Bill replies...

If the shoots of your Weeping Cherry Wendi are touching the floor then they will need to be lightly pruned back.  But, unless your shoots are vastly overcrowded very little pruning will be required.

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Sharon Wilkinson asks...

When do I cut back my very overgrown fuschia please?

Bill replies...

You can trim back and tidy your Fuchsia now Sharon but I would not prune it hard back until early Spring - which is the correct time for pruning hardy Fuchsia.  If your Fuchsia is a very large plant you can cut back into the old wood and your plant will start to shoot again - a lot will depend on how tall and bushy you want your Fuchsia to be.

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Ken Burnett asks...

When and how (with what tools) do I prune an overthick privet hedge?  At present it is around 4 1/2ft tall and 3 ft wide. Can you advise me on technique?

Bill replies...

The tools you will require Ken are a pruning saw and a pair of loping shears and the time to prune your hedge is early Spring time - just when the sap is beginning to rise.  You can cut back the width as well as the height of your Privet and to ensure that you are keeping your hedge straight (when cutting back the height) use a garden line.

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Alison asks...

Can I cut back my Hostas now or wait until they have completely died down? Also should I cut down a Dicentra Spectabilis now or wait until Spring?

Bill replies...

I would allow your Hostas to die back naturally Alison before removing the dead and yellowing leaves and again with your Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis) you need to wait until the leaves have yellowed and died back completely.

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Sherry Worley asks...

My eucalyptus tree is a thin column about 15-18 feet tall.  It has been nearly blown out of the ground in the recent winds and has also lost its silver colour, the leaves are now green.  Is it possible to saw it off at about 3 feet to regenerate and keep it smaller with silver new growth?  If I can't prune it back hard it will have to come down altogether as we are in a very open and windy situation.  Is it worth a try?

Bill replies...

You can pollard/cut back your tree Sherry and I would be inclined to cut it back as soon as possible due to the damage caused by recent winds.  It is quite common for Eucalyptus to be coppiced back each year and in the Springtime you will get masses of young shoots appearing.

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Ellen Baird asks...

Bill I am frighten of pruning my fuchsia tree, new last year, in case it will die like my Thalia bush when I pruned it hard! Please help!

Bill replies...

There are numerous cultivars of Fuchsias Ellen but they do fall into two main groups, they are the hardy Fuchsias which will withstand frosty winter conditions and these can be pruned back in the Springtime.  The other group - in which there are numerous species - is the cultivars and whilst they will withstand mild winters they do require protection if kept outside during very wet and frosty weather.  Your Thalia species of Fuchsia was a cultivar strain and if kept outside harsh winter weather could have been the cause of your Fuchsia dying. 

last updated: 02/06/2008 at 15:18
created: 23/10/2006

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