Garden Lore

“Few lend (but fools)
Their working Tools.”

Thomas Tusser Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie (1557)

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Garden Lore: Winter Pruning

Winter and early spring are the optimum pruning times for most plants. Because the act of cutting back can stimulate plants into growth, timing can be important. Close to the coast, we only get light frosts so we never have to worry too much. But if you are used to waking to white ground and ice on puddles, hold back until the end of the month and leave the hydrangeas and roses until last.

Grapevines, raspberries – indeed all the brambles – and kiwi fruit need annual pruning or they will swamp you with their rampant growth. While pruning is recommended for most fruit trees, it doesn’t usually matter if you skip a year or two.

Always prune wisterias. They are as determined and rampant as kiwifruit. Roses will survive without pruning – although you may rue the day if you allow climbing ones free range and they look better for some care. Hydrangeas are pruned to increase flower size and to stop bushes getting too big. They will still bloom if you don’t prune them.

The critical piece of information you need is whether plants flower or fruit on last season’s new growth or on the new growth that they are preparing to make this spring. If is last year’s growth, as in hydrangeas, wisteria and raspberries, if you cut too hard, you simply won’t get any flowers or fruit this spring. Roses flower on fresh growth so you are pruning for shape and health and can cut back very hard. The same goes for grape vines. One size does not fit all in this matter.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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