The three D’s are key to a successful pruning

LAST month I wrote about the perils of a cold snap, and previously I’ve encouraged planning, which can be done indoors.

Autumn jobs – planting shrubs, dividing plants, tidying, this can all continue with mild weather. But what can be done outside if the weather is damp, and the ground is too muddy or frosty to go on and moreover, you need to move around to prevent freezing to the spot?

Try pruning woody ornamental and fruiting plants. It’s also a really good way to know these shrubs and trees in your garden, because it helps to know their names, for researching pruning times.

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When you actually are in the process too, you notice things – be that a creeping disease or a hidden feature.

There are a few helpful things to point out.

Firstly, know what you’re dealing with. Now is the time to prune deciduous shrubs and trees, but other plants, climbers, for example, will have to wait their turn.

Next, you should prune back to a bud, with sharp secateurs to avoid a stump dying back or tearing.

Then, you want to think – what are the dead pieces (remember this is winter, so the way to check is scraping back a little of the bark to see if it is green underneath); what is damaged; what is diseased. That’s the “three D’s”, and they can be removed.

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If branches are crossing this tends to lead to them rubbing at some point and damaging the bark. Prune to take at least one of the culprits out.

Next look at the centre of the plant: lightly prune here so air can circulate. Keep stepping back and assessing as you go along, and take it slowly. At the end, remove the prunings from the ornamental part of the garden and put somewhere for wildlife, or shred.

Absolutely avoid putting diseased material near live plants or on the compost.

If you are interested in pruning roses or apples, you could book a place with Joan Scanlon at Luton Hoo Walled Garden.

The Apple session is on 16th December.

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