Time for Spring Cutbacks
Many plants require a visit from the secateurs in early Spring.
Early to mid spring is always a busy time in the garden. If the winter has been mild, there is always plenty of weeding to do. If you have not already got around to it, early to mid March is a good time to get amongst the borders with a pair of secateurs to cut back spent foliage on herbaceous perennials and to prune certain shrubs. These jobs take priority over the weeding for me at this time because delay can hold back young foliage shoots and flower buds.
Many gardeners cut back spent foliage on herbaceous perennials in late autumn leaving the garden immaculately tidy throughout the winter period. However there is a lot to be said for leaving the cutting back until now. A cold snap for a couple of days will do some damage to the young shoots of some herbaceous perennials. Leaving the cutting back until now would have left a warm blanket of spent foliage on top of those developing young shoots.
I remember making a winter visit to a garden open to the public some years ago. I was interested to see how the spent giant leaves of Gunnera manicata (pictured) had been used to cover the rootstock and crown of the overwintering plant. This method of frost protection can be used in your garden. When cut back in late autumn, the rootstock and dormant young shoots of herbaceous perennials are left exposed to the ravages of winter.
Such herbaceous perennials that should have their winter coats removed now include the Cranesbill Geraniums, Paeonies and Hostas. Although not herbaceous, Penstemons can be treated in the same way and cut back to the fresh young shoots now visible at the base.
There are many shrubs that need to be vigorously cut back at this time of year. Look carefully, and you will see hardy Fuchsias displaying young red shoots at the base. Cut the old stems down to those young shoots now. Lavatera should be cut back hard down to obvious young shoots.
Buddleja respond well to vigorous pruning now, producing loads of young, flower-bearing wood as a result.
The winter Dogwoods (Cornus alba, C.stolonifera, C.sanguinea and their varieties) maintain their beautiful stem colour only if they are coppiced now to near ground level. Mid to late summer flowering Clematis should be cut back now to a similar height, to pairs of plump buds. They will respond vigorously, with plenty of time to produce new flowering wood for the summer.
So sharpen your secateurs and get chopping, see how your garden responds!