How to maintain garden plants


It is definitely not true to say that every tree or shrub must be pruned in order to thrive. We only prune when something threatens to go wrong (for example, when tree branches begin to cross each other) or when pruning will make a shrub more compact in shape or encourage flowering.

Shrubs that flower after early summer form their buds in the same year and flower on 1 year-old wood. Such shrubs may therefore safely be pruned early in spring, before they start into growth, including bush roses which are cut back fairly drastically. Shrubs which flower before early summer have started to develop their buds in the previous year and flower on 2 year-old or older wood. If these shrubs were to be pruned in spring, irreplaceable flower buds would be lost in the process. If this group of shrubs requires pruning at all, it should be done immediately after flowering.

If you study a twig in the spring you will see clearly that it bears buds along its entire length, sometimes growing in opposite pairs, sometimes alternately to left and right of the twig. Later in the season these buds or eyes develop small shoots. When pruning, sharp cuts must be made just above such buds. The position of the bud determines the direction in which the shoot will subsequently grow.


This is the removal of old wood in favour of young shoots developing closer to the base of the shrub. It is done to prevent a shrub becoming bare at the base.

Special measures

The following woody plants demand extra attention:

Small shrubs which quickly become bare at the base and must therefore be cut back drastically at regular intervals: Artemisia, Calluna, Erica, Lavandula.

Taller shrubs which require similar renovation treatment of 2-3 year-old branches. This must be done in spring or immediately after flowering in the case of the deciduous Berberis, Cornus alba, Cornus sericea (syn C. stolonifera)> Exochorda, Forsythia, Holodiscus, Poten- tilla, Sorbaria and Weigela.

Shrubs which must immediately after flowering be cut back to young side shoots appearing at the base of the flowering branches: Deutzia, Philadel- phus, Prunus triloba (cut back to 3-5 buds from the main stem), Syringa.

Shrubs which must be cut back to ground level or just above every spring: Bud- dleia, Caryopteris, Ceanothus,. Escallo- nia, Hypericum, Perovskia, Rosa, Spiraea bumalda hybrids and Spiraea japonica.

Pruning heavy branches Where a heavy branch has to be removed from a tree, we must be careful to prevent the trunk tearing. The branch is first partially sawn underneath, at 20-30 cm from the trunk, and is then sawn off from above, a little further from the trunk. Finally the stump is cut as closely as possible to the trunk; the wound is shaped to an ellipse and treated with a fungicide.

Tying in

Many garden plants are unable to stand on their own feet and must be supported. Climbing plants must be tied with extreme care. A large, brightly painted trellis looks very ugly on the wall of a house when it only supports a meagre little plant. Make sure that the supporting material is inconspicuous. Climbing roses and other wall climbers may be attached to rawl-plugged brass hooks. Brass does not rust but turns black in the course of time. The branches may be tied to the hooks with dark plastic string.

pruning garden plants

Above: pruning

staking a plant

Above and below: staking

how to stake a plant

Trees must be tied to stakes in such a way that the binding cannot rub against the bark. Plastic ties in which the tree is separated from the stake by means of a firm block are very suitable. They must be carefully secured and be retied every year.

Perennials may be supported in a variety of ways. The best system is to place bushy branches, about 60-100 cm long, among the plants about mid-spring; cuttings from all kinds of shrubs will do. To begin with such a border full of dead twigs is an ugly sight, but they will soon be covered by the perennials and become invisible. At a later stage the tallest plants will require further support, and are then tied individually to bamboo sticks. The natural growth of the plants must not be disturbed and the sticks must be invisible.

staking a tree

how to stake a tree

close up of tree staking technique

Above: Staking trees.

Wind protection

Evergreen garden plants are particularly subject to wind damage; leaves may turn brown at the margins, conifers may dry out etc. Young plants, especially, must be protected from dry wind by means of netting, reed-matting or other suitable material.

Water frequently at the base, using warm water.

Gardens in windy regions (for instance in coastal areas} mmt ^ surrounded by fences or hedges. A fence which allows a little wind to pass through gives better protection than an impenetrable one.

Frost protection

In a severe winter many plants become damaged by frost. Together with a dry wind, frost will cause the plants to dry out. Protect them with conifer branches, bracken or straw and remove the protective cover when it stops freezing. Some perennials are particularly sensitive to stagnant water in the soil. Such plants, especially rock plants, should be placed in a well drained, raised position – for instance on slopes – in raised containers or on terraces.

Cultivated roses are particularly sensitive to frost at the point where they have been grafted. Bush roses are therefore planted with the graft 5 m below the surface. In winter the soil between the bushes is carefully scraped round the plants in order to give further protection to the grafts; this is called ‘earthing up’. After pruning in spring the soil is levelled once more. Bulbs and tubers planted before the start of winter usually require frost protection, generally in the form of peat or leaves, with a little sand sprinkled on top to prevent scattering.

Newly planted trees require support against wind pressure, and for this purpose an uncreosoted stake is planted in the hole. The tree is planted next and is secured with tree-ties in such a way that the bark cannot rub against the stake. Plastic ties with a separating block are ideal. As the newly planted tree will subside a little, it will have to be retied after a couple of months; a tie with buckle is therefore very convenient (centre). The photograph below shows how it should not be done. The tree has been tied entirely incorrectly and has consequently become damaged

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.