What to prune this July

July means it's pruning time

Life & Style
Autumn-colouring smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) can be kept to a medium sized shrub if pruned during its winter dormancy.

Autumn-colouring smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) can be kept to a medium sized shrub if pruned during its winter dormancy.

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Fiona Ogilvie's tip for pruning in July.

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Grape vines tapping against the kitchen window are a reminder that July is pruning time.

Pruning instructions usually start by saying first remove all dead wood. I prefer first to check that my tools are sharp, few things are more irritating than trying to prune with a blunt blade.

Dead wood is especially tough to cut, as anyone who has ever split old railway sleepers for firewood knows.

Sharpen secateurs with a flat metal file (from about $20 from hardware stores). A pair of secateurs has two blades with four edges but sharpen only the bevelled edge, holding the file at the angle of the blade and filing out any small nicks or notches.

Some gardeners prefer a small sharpening tool with a V-shaped notch through which you push the blade back and forth.

Save time and angst by checking you have the correct tools before you start.

Use long-handled secateurs to prune your grape rather than wobbling about on a potentially lethal ladder. Shears are best for shaping topiary, or scissors for small plants.

Finally, you need a small handsaw for stems that are too thick for secateurs.

Climbing plants are one of the toughest pruning jobs of any, especially with a big creeper that has got out of hand, so tackle them first. Ornamental grapes (Vitis species) can be cut back hard to their main runners, which may be many metres long if they are trained over a big pergola.

Climbing plants are one of the toughest pruning jobs of any, especially with a big creeper that has got out of hand.

The clippings are flexible enough to bend and weave into wreaths for Christmas presents, if you like to plan ahead.

Flowering clematis are wonderful climbers, tough and easy and there is one for every garden.

Their pruning requirements vary though, depending on whether they are a species like C. montana that flowers on old (last year's) wood, or a large-flowered hybrid that blooms on the current season's growth.

C. montana and other spring flowering species can be cut back after they have bloomed, though if you are me you invariably run into issues with birds' nests in spring, which is why all our montana clematises are now huge.

Large flowered hybrids and the smaller-flowering species C. viticella can be cut down to two or three buds from the base. Don't be nervous, they will grow again and flower all the better.

My last climber for winter pruning is our evergreen potato vine (Solanum jasminoides) that has white, scentless flowers nearly all year.

It becomes woody and leggy if left unpruned, so I like to cut it back hard now.

It takes a month or two to recover but is soon back in action. This isn't a plant for the high ranges as it won't take temperatures much below -5 Celsius.

Summer flowering shrubs that can be pruned now include Buddleia davidii, oleander, potentilla and hardy hibiscus (H. syriacus).

Leave mophead hydrangeas until spring in cold districts.

Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) needs winter pruning if you prefer it as a shrub - left alone it becomes a small tree.

  • Fiona's September talk at Ogumbil and Dungowan Valley Garden Club is postponed until June 2021. Details Jan Hahn, 02 6769 4338.
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