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Pruning deciduous shrubs in February is a crucial step in maintaining the health and look of your garden. The winter season provides an excellent opportunity to rejuvenate your shrubs by removing dead or diseased branches, which encourages new growth and shapes the plants so that they stay looking their best. The cold season also ensures that the shrubs are in dormancy, minimising the risk of damage to the plants during pruning. As the winter chill begins to subside, taking the time to care for your shrubs sets them up for optimal growth and blooms in the warmer months ahead.

Why it’s important to prune

Pruning is a big part of maintaining both evergreen and deciduous shrubs, for multiple reasons. Not only does this practice encourage strong growth and give them a nice and neat appearance, but it also helps to prevent diseases and pest infestations which keeps them healthy. Proper pruning techniques also promote better air circulation and light penetration throughout the shrub, which adds to its overall health and vigour. Ultimately, the importance of pruning for evergreen and deciduous shrubs lies in its ability to keep them aesthetically pleasing and improve their longevity in your gardens and landscapes.

How to prune in winter

Have your secateurs at the ready for any pruning. Make sure you don’t prune too far from the bud- it can cause the wood between the cut and the bud to die, which usually affects the health of the bud. But also avoid pruning too close to the bud, as this can damage the bud itself and prevent it from being able to grow into a leaf or a flower. Cutting at the wrong angle leaves a pointed stub of stem above the bud, which means the stem might die back as far as the bud and possibly further. Aim to cut just give a bud but sloping away from it. That way, any water that hits the cut runs off to prevent rotting.

What to prune – Clematis and buddleia

This time of year is the ideal time to prune late-flowering clematis, either by cutting them back hard or by cutting side-shoots back. If you’re cutting them back hard, cut them to within 30cm from the ground. If you want to keep a larger framework of stems, cutting the side-shoots back to one pair of buds from the main stem will do the job. February is also a good month to prune buddleia. Any woody growth made last year should be cut back hard- aim for one or two buds from the old wood. If it’s a younger plant, you can built up the plant’s framework by leaving some of the strong new growth.

What to prune – Honeysuckle

If you have climbing honeysuckle that’s starting to become overgrown, it can also be hard pruned. Cut one or two of the main stems all the way back to ground level, and then remove any remaining dead or diseased wood. In order to cut the steams cleanly, it’s easier to detach the branches from their supports and unravel twining growth. Then when you’re done, you can just rearrange the branches on the support and tie them in place. You’ll need to be more careful with your pruning for honeysuckle that flowers on new growth. If you prefer a bushier, more natural-looking shrub, leave it for now and then prune it when it starts to become too large or unkempt.

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