While it is often said that ‘the best time to prune is when the knife is sharp’, as we move beyond the winter solstice (22 June) and the days start to grow longer, now is one of the best times to prepare your garden for the upcoming growing season by sharpening up your pruning shears.
Late winter is a great time to prune any deciduous trees or shrubs while they are still dormant. Pruning now allows for better visibility of the plant’s structure and will promote vigorous growth during once growth restarts. Remove any dead, damaged or crossing branches, and shape the plant to promote airflow and increased sunlight to the centre of the plant. This will help to prevent the spread of disease and reduces the risk of pests infesting the plant. In frost-free areas, roses can be pruned in a similar manner right now as well. Trim stems to just above an outward-facing bud, which encourages new stems to grow in the same direction away from the centre of the plant.
Pruning perennials and ornamental grasses now will also help rejuvenate the plants and encourages healthier, fuller growth during the next growing season. We will be trimming back all our salvias to their new emerging shoots and snipping our liriope off at ground level. We will also be chopping the ends off all the hydrangea branches back to the nearest strong bud.
The only thing we would avoid pruning right now is anything that is currently flowering and any evergreen hedges. As with most plants, pruning after the plant has flowered is a good general rule, whilst evergreen hedges are best lightly trimmed a couple of times during the active growing season to maintain their shape and density. One exception might be the major chopping back of a totally unruly hedge, in which case late winter is again probably the best time to do it.
Remember, these are general guidelines. Some plants do have specific pruning requirements and so it is good practice to investigate the trimming needs for each plant in your garden. By pruning those plants that need it at the right time you can maintain their health, control growth, enhance their beauty and maximize their productivity.
Toolwise, there is a minimum of three pruning tools essential for the task. A set of secateurs, a set of long-handled loppers and a hand saw, although there is a myriad of other products on the market. Some of the best new tools we have seen lately are the battery-powered secateurs and the mini electric pruning saws, both of which are especially handy for those with less hand strength. Remember, keep your tools sharp and disinfect frequently as you work with a squirt of straight methylated spirits.
Meanwhile, around the town gardens, camellias continue to shine and the normally nondescript hardy succulent Crassula ovata (jade plant) shrubs are revealing themselves as they enter peak flowering season. The banksias and grevilleas are also having a flowering flush, which is keeping the Wattlebirds and other Honeyeaters well fed and, with its feathery passionfruit-scented foliage, the shrubby sun-loving Tagetes lemmonii (Mexican marigold) is also aflush now with its ember-orange daisy-like blooms.
In the wild places, on the sides of the road around the Triangle, the bushland is currently rather homogenously green, with very few obvious flowers.
Finally, this month in the vegie garden we continue catering to the cooler weather and so are mostly still limited to planting leeks, shallots or onions, peas of any description as well as broad beans and lettuce. It is also probably time to clean up the pumpkin patch and give your berry canes a trim and tidy.
Finally, if you have any comments, gardening questions or plant or pest identification problems, please send them through to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you personally.