We are almost at the end of January, a moment that is highly significant as on the final day, I can walk home in good light, even on a cloudy day, though even at this time of the year, 5pm is an early finishing time. In the soil, despite the freezing temperatures, there will just be the slightest root growth, and though average temperatures in January and February are very similar, the light levels certainly increase. And this sends a powerful message to me; Get moving, spring is coming and there is a lot to do.
You have only to look in the carpark of your local supermarkets to realise that the art of pruning is largely lost; it has degenerated into a form of cutting where the only object is to decrease plant size. If we cut our hair in the same fashion, we would revert to the pudding basin haircut. Regard pruning as the method by which we increase the number and size of flowers and for those plants that have them, fruits. It maintains the brilliant colour of barks, it reduces the density of foliage which reduces disease and the wind resistance of plants and therefore their potential to be blown over.
With this in mind, the secateurs, lopper, pruning saw are sharpened. We will cut out the dead wood of the winter flowering Jasmine and allow free flowering young shoots to develop. They have three seasons to regrow before their flowers appear again. The vines which weep copiously if left until the spring, have had last year’s growth cut back to two buds. The harsh decision has been made to remove lower branches of the mulberry and white stemmed birch. The latter will put on a greater show, the mulberry will cease to be a hazard to lawn mowers. Even the yellow leaved Philadelphus has had a large cut back; too big for its allotted space, it has had the chop. We have time now to work on it and are prepared to sacrifice its small flowers, rather than wait until after it has finished flowering. Give pruning a go. Read up on pruning cuts, concentrate on timing and find information specific to the plant you wish to prune. It is a time for boldness. Trees recover, though I still remember the words from Doug Sykes, the fruit foreman, in a wonderful northern accent “Ee, that were a lovely branch” as a substantial limb was parted from an apple tree.