Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Pruning remains worthwhile in the summer

There are so many tasks for a gardener to be getting on with in the summer that it can be perfectly understandable if a couple of things are overlooked in favour of more exciting considerations – such as choosing which plants to maintain throughout the summer period. 

At this time of year, some of you may be planning ahead and thinking about how to overwinter some of your more delicate species. 

While there are some tasks that may be more closely associated with the cooler seasons, there is still a great deal to be said for continuing to do the work in the summer. Pruning is a great example of such an activity, as there are so many important benefits it offers that it really should not be overlooked. 

Chief among these is arguably the fact that it reduces the chance of disease spreading throughout the garden and into other nearby plants. The practice involves simply removing unwanted extra parts of the plant – such as branches, buds, or roots. 

In addition to the improvement or maintenance of the health of the plant, it also has aesthetic benefits such as the removal of deadwood, controlling or directing growth, preparing for transplanting and increasing the yield of fruit or flowers. 

Some species – such as roses, fruit trees and grapevines – even have their own dedicated pruning practices, as they have slightly different requirements to others. Hedges are generally maintained through trimming, so do not always require pruning – but shrubs also have a slightly modified version of the task. 

As they are often used to give shape and structure to a garden – or even planted around a greenhouse – it is important to keep them tidy through regular pruning. The key areas to target are close to buds, ideally above them and never into the bud itself. Be sure to make a clean cut, otherwise the chances of disease entering through the wound are increased. 

Bunny Guinness – who is a chartered landscape architect, a regular panellist on the BBC Radio 4 show Gardeners' Question Time and author of the Family Gardens book – said that the vast majority of her own pruning takes place over the coming weeks. 

In an article for UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph, she acknowledged that winter pruning is probably for the best if you are aiming for vigorous bursts of rejuvenated growth in the colder conditions. 

"Usually winter pruning is done when the coldest part of the year has passed and particularly on mature trees when there are no leaves, because removing huge limbs is lighter, easier work," she commented. 

"People worry about the risk of 'bleeding' if they leave winter pruning too late – trees start to bleed if pruned when the sap is starting to rise in February and March and you can see unsightly amounts of liquid leaking from the cuts," the expert continued. 

"It is extremely rare that this will weaken older trees," Ms Guinness remarked, adding: "The general consensus is that the sap removes harmful fungal spores and bacteria from the wound site, so bleeding can actually be beneficial."