THERE"S rarely a month when gardeners can't find something to prune.
September is a good time to trim winter flowering shrubs such as japonicas, Burkwood's viburnum and winter honeysuckle.
My japonicas include big, straggly old bushes with flowers of rich vermillion red and pure white, and a smaller, neater bush of 'Apple Blossom' with pink and white blooms.
All are examples of how before you start cutting a shrub back, it pays to ask yourself why you're doing it.
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Japonicas produce a good show of flowers every year with little or no pruning so the only reason to clip one is because you want to change its shape.
Japonicas or Japanese quinces (Chaenomeles japonica and C. speciosa 'Alba', two metres high) may become shapeless and straggly over time. But they make attractive formal hedges.
Their glossy leaves look good all summer and as japonicas flower for several years on the same short spurs at the end of leafy shoots, you can continue to enjoy the lovely late winter blossom.
"Apple Blossom" (aka Moerloosei) has a naturally graceful, arching form and won't need pruning provided it has room to spread.
There's little that's graceful about winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima, 2.5m), it's the daggiest looking bush, big and sprawling, bare and woody at the base and with the irritating habit of retaining last season's yellowing leaves when fresh new ones emerge in spring.
The scent of the cream and white flowers on a frosty August morning, though, is incomparable. For that reason alone I wouldn't want to be without one, even though its unsatisfactory appearance does nothing to enhance a carefully planned planting scheme.
But being tough and drought-hardy makes winter honeysuckle another good shrub for a formal hedge.
It grows easily from autumn and winter cuttings and as I've got just the spot for a small hedge, I've made a diary note to take some next March. My old bush can stay where it is as it shades my propagation corner, best place for it really.
Viburnum x burkwoodii (2.5-3m) is another semi-evergreen though it does it a lot more prettily than does the honeysuckle. It bears gloriously scented, pink and white flowers in August and forms a well-rounded shrub, multi-stemmed and branching densely from the ground up.
Last year I was faced with cutting one back to make room for a new path. It was impossible to do this without wrecking the look of the poor shrub so instead, I removed its side branches up to 2m.
This left a little forest of stems beside the path, which some nearly hellebores are now colonising. I can still see and smell the canopy of blossom overhead and am delighted with this solution to my problem.
Before you start pruning, assemble the correct tools: a saw (a small, battery chainsaw is ideal) for thick branches, ratchet secateurs for thinner stems and a hedge-trimmer for existing hedges.
Bathurst Garden Club has cancelled the 2021 Bathurst Spring Spectacular, scheduled for October 30/31, in view of COVID-19.
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