Ponderings on pruning

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Pruned-back plants make for a bare look

My annual August ritual involves a great deal of pruning - a huge task that I need help with these days. Because I grow so many summer- and autumn-flowering plants from warm climates that would become extremely straggly if left to their own devices, they need a hard cutting back just before spring arrives, so that they are ready for another long season of growth. I fertilise and try to mulch them at the same time, as this is when it is easy to get in amongst the plants to carry out these chores.

Much of my garden looks quite terrible at this time, with many plants reduced to stumps or sticks, and I never want anyone to visit me in the months of August and September. As spring is supposed to be the time when gardens are at their best, this is difficult! I deliberately veered away from having a traditional springtime garden in my earlier gardening days, as I felt that spring flowers are over so quickly and our summer and autumn seasons go on so long and are so conducive for blooms of warm-climate plants, giving interest and colour over a long season. I avoided planting a lot of evergreen flowering shrubs as well, as they tend to have a limited period of bloom, and they would have taken up precious room that I wanted for my more exotic specimens.

The Murraya hedge provides permanent form

But perhaps because I am getting older and less sprightly, this year I have started to wonder if my ideas went too far in the opposite direction, as I feel the need for more permanent greenery and plants that hold their shape year-round, so that the task of pruning is less onerous. I seem to be craving more structure and am thinking of putting in some more evergreen shrubby plants to provide a bit more of a balance. I find myself drawn to the more permanent architectural features of the garden, such as the hedge and the dramatic foliage plants that remain in place looking handsome all year round.

The large amount of pruning we do results in a mountain of woody material that needs to go through the mulching machine. This is a good addition to the compost heap and breaks down quickly to form a useful organic addition to the garden, but also takes its toll on the mulching person, who is not getting any younger either and beginning to dread this task each year!

I guess we all change our gardening ideas from time to time; I certainly don't want to eliminate all my warm-climate plants, as they provide such colour and excitement in the warmer parts of the year. I just want a better framework for them, which can contrast with their changing form over the gardening year! A visit to a nursery may be in store ...

Reader Comments

  • By Peta 6253 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 23 August 2010

    Pruning and changing the garden strikes a chord! I have yet to start on the roses and the hydrangeas and they are beginning to shoot. My excuse is that until last week we have had quite severe frosts. In fact these frosts have determined that I will be adjusting my garden. Murrayas are out!

    I think it is good to change every so often. Hopefully, there will be no more frosts now! Deirdre

  • By Roslyn 2156 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 23 August 2010

    Hi Deirdre, How right you are about the prunung! We have just downsized from 1 1/2 acres of garden - But now I have the new garden to renovate & am getting excited. Have you ever tried any of the evergreen frangipanis and other stunning varieties in Sydney? Also hot pink Brugsmania?? Ros

    Thanks, Ros. It will be fun to create a new garden. I haven't tried those shrubs you suggested but I will look out for them. Deirdre

  • By Georgina 2076 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 23 August 2010

    Dear Deirdre, Still havent pruned the roses. By the time I do the housekeeping ,the sweeping,raking etc,other jobs get left! The blossom and bulbs are out so I will look past the roses and enjoy the moment!Georgina

    I think that is the best philosophy. I am very behind with everything but trying to enjoy the first signs of spring. Deirdre

  • By Peta 2758 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Monday, 23 August 2010

    I agree with you about the starkness in the garden right now. We visited a fabulous garden on Sunday - lots of ideas. Topiary, low evergreen hedges, ponds with fountains, massed tree planting- those with pale trunks. All looked and sounded good (water splashing). Im inspired!

    Love to know where that garden was, Peta. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 23 August 2010

    Know what you mean about pruning and structure! Just at the moment I need a crepe myrtle trimmed down - I cant do it, nor can anyone else here, so am getting in an arborist.

    Hope it all goes well with your tree, Margaret. Deirdre

  • By carolyn 2125 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 23 August 2010

    Hi Deirdre, I agree with your comments on pruning - Ive just taken out quite a lot of plants that were requiring a lot of work. My garden looks like a desert at the moment but my aim is to put in some plants which will give more structure and be less work in the long run!

    I am looking forward to thinking how to go about this and the chance to get some new plants! Deirdre

  • By Peta 2758 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Tuesday, 24 August 2010

    Hi Deirdre, The garden was Jum Jum. We went there on Sunday for the opening of AOGS. It belongs to Jill Wran and was one of the best gardens Ive ever been to. Its open for the Scheme to everyone in April-May 2011 and is in the Yarramalong valley. Beautifully put together and looks good now!

    Thanks for letting us know, Peta! Will make a note for next year. Deirdre.

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