February is one of the best months to prune your plants: the days don’t bite quite like they do in January and there’s still plenty of time before the green shoots of spring appear. Find out what Head Gardener Dan and the team have been snipping so far this year to keep the garden looking its best.
The Nut Walk is undoubtedly the biggest pruning job for us at this time of year. Each and every stem is untied on an annual basis, assessed for productivity, and either re-tied into the framework, or pruned away to make room for new young shoots to emerge and take over. It takes the team a long time to do because the Nut-Walk is just so long, but it’s well worth it by the end; there’s nothing else like it in the garden.
The Lime Walk is a bit easier but no less important. Here, the last year’s growth at the top of our pleached lime trees is pruned back to within one or two buds from the main stem to reduce the vigour of the plant and control its growth. We also revisit the Lime-Walk in summer, when we do a similar thing, just not quite as hard. The overall aim is to have lots of closely cropped growth atop a thick, bare trunk below, giving the impression of a hedge on stilts.
Pruning wisteria can be daunting but, once you get the hang of it, really impressive results can be achieved. Wisteria needs to be pruned twice yearly, once in the summer and once now in late winter. We prune all new growth back to five – six buds in the summer and two – three buds in the winter. This helps to ripen the wood and create flowering spur systems rather than lots of vigorous, leafy growth that won’t necessarily be that floriferous.
Similarly, climbing roses will be shy to flower if left alone un-pruned. We have a nice one growing up a wall on the back of the gift shop that we usually take some time to train at this time of year. The most important thing here is to shorten flowering side shoots to about two thirds of their total length and, as with the Nut-Walk, it’s also a good opportunity to untie remaining branches and re-secure them back with fresh garden string, ensuring nothing is cutting into, or rubbing unnaturally against, the plant over time.
There are lots of other things to prune at this time of year – grasses, shrub roses, ornamental vines, and wall-trained fruit to name but a few – but I hope the list above will inspire you to think about what can be pruned in your garden now and provide you with some helpful hints along the way.