How to prune with finesse - Bridgwater & Taunton College

Anyone who has ever worked with me will be familiar with the term ‘blobbing’ when it comes to pruning shrubs. This refers to the technique of turning every shrub into a generic cloud type shape. This looks fantastic when employed in formal topiary, however indiscriminate pruning risks removing the flowers as well as eradicating the natural shape or habit of your shrub.

It can be tricky to know when and how to prune, so here are a few rules of thumb to get you started.

Begin by tackling the 3 d's by removing dead, diseased and damaged branches. It is also a good idea to remove branches that are crossing or rubbing, encouraging good air flow and light which will lessen the likelihood of fungal disease. Always prune just above a node, where the leaf joins the stem, dormant buds are here and may then burst into life. 

Another top tip is to prune after flowering, giving the plant ample time to produce flowering buds for next year.  One of my favourite gardener’s sayings is ‘growth follows the knife’.  If your shrub is overly enthusiastic do not be tempted to cut it back hard, it will love it and come back even more determined. So if your shrub is lop-sided take the counter intuitive step of pruning harder on the weaker side. We can achieve different effects by coppicing or pollarding a shrub, this is cutting the whole lot down to ground or cutting back to a few stems, for example encouraging the vibrant fiery stems of dogwood.

Here at the Walled Gardens we pollard foxglove trees in our subtropical walk, this means we lose the flowers but gain huge leaves that lend themselves perfectly to that luscious look.

I hope these tips help to demystify the art of pruning a little for you, however the main thing is to get out into your garden and give it a go! It is your garden, so get creative!

To find out more information about the Walled Gardens of Cannington please visit our website or call 01278 655042.

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