Pruning in March
With the long summer months slowly passing into the cooler and calm autumn days, it is time to take stock of your garden with your pruning tools at hand. Now is the time to see what should be neatened, shaped, tamed or encouraged to give another flower flush, as most plants will have grown vigorously and might need a haircut or a clean-up.
Prune the evergreens – this means trimming topiaries and formal evergreen hedges. Allowing plants with a formal shape to lose it takes away from their quality and desired denseness. Neglecting this job and then trying to correct it in a drastic way is seldom successful and defeats the purpose of the exercise.
Care for the damaged – damage from hail and summer storms causes torn and broken branches, which can lead to disease. Cut back damaged material to healthy nodes and treat proactively with a general-purpose fungicide.
Tame space invaders and unwanted growth – stop vigorous plants, like bougainvilleas and other climbing plants, from blocking gutters or finding their way up into trees and overhead power cables. Also check out the competition between neighbouring plants that might grow into each other or are causing too much shade for plants growing beneath them. Pruning away the low-growing side branches of large shrubs like hibiscus and bottle brushes can change them into neat small trees, providing more space for other plants to be planted.
Remove green growth on variegated plants – since variegation in evergreens is intentionally bred into plants, it is not a natural thing. If you allow green growth on such plants to take hold, the plant might revert to being entirely green. So remove all green growth sprouting from something like a variegated coprosma or pittosporum.
Keep the symmetrical shape of succulents – the fancy and frilly echeveria varieties lose condition and shape if allowed to flower. So even though the flowering stems are pretty, it is better to remove them. Also cut off the tall old flowering stems of Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (white lady) – chances are good that pups will have sprouted from the nodes on a flowering stem which can be planted to give you new plants.
Harvest via pruning – plants like pelargoniums and fuchsias can become leggy after a whole summer’s growth. Cutting them back will give you lots of material to use as fresh cuttings and will also rejuvenate the mother plants. Remove flowering stems of plants favoured for their foliage rather than their blooms, to divert energy back into sustaining quality leaves. Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ear) and Thymus x citriodorus (lemon thyme) are good examples. Allowing them to flower leads to bad quality leaves, and the same is true for most herbs too. Conifers need a trimming. Although conifers have different, specific shapes, they sometimes need a little help in maintaining them. As they grow actively in the cooler months, take this time to gently shape them without cutting into old wood. It encourages fresh new growth and a denser look.