Date(s) - 13/10/2017
Kilmington Village Hall
Michael Burks, who founded the Castle Gardens Group in 1987, is no stranger to Kilmington. As members watched him unload truckfuls of shrubs at the village hall, they knew they were in for a treat. Before tackling the shrubs in front of him, he outlined the three reasons for pruning: flowers, shape and size, and removal of disease. And as a bonus, pruning is equally therapeutic for the gardener. Having the right tools for the job is also important – secateurs, loppers and a pruning saw. Sealants are rarely called for, and disinfectants only where there is disease. A good handful of fertiliser in spring is all that is required.
Shrubs can be sorted into five pruning groups. The first comprises those that neither like nor require pruning. These include daphnes, choisyas, skimmias, sarcococcas and nandinas which should be pruned after flowering only if essential. In complete contrast, the second group covers those that accept discipline no matter how harsh – mahonias, viburnums, osmanthus and abelia, all of which can be cut hard back. Next come the tricky ones, including ceanothus and hebes which should be lightly trimmed all over after flowering. The fourth group are those that flower in early summer on the previous year’s growth which Michael called old-fashioned shrubs. The best way to encourage more flowers is to remove one-third of existing stems from the base. To demonstrate the technique, he produced familiar plants, philadelphus, deutzias and weigelas, identifying which stems to prune out. The final group is made up of shrubs that flower in late summer. Most, including buddleias and lavateras, need hard pruning in spring, but less vigorous ones such as caryopteris should be tidied up in early winter.
There are, of course, individual plants which do not fit into neat boxes. Dogwoods grown for coloured stems should have all the growth cut back to under 30cm in early spring; regular pruning of photinias and Eucalyptus gunnii forces the production of young leaves; and where variegated plants revert to green, or suckers appear, or an upright shrub throws out an undisciplined branch – cut the offending stems out. Michael had the mark of a genuine expert: he made it all look so simple!