Major cut backs.

No, I’m not talking about the financial situation in the country at the moment, or talking about not buying so many plants in future!  It’s the time of year to get the secateurs out and cut back lots of shrubs and coloured stems. The first plant to get the treatment is our yellow bamboo, Pleioblastus viridistriatus.

Splitting bamboo

Bamboo gone

All done for this year, one year we forgot and had shoots of it coming up all over the lawn.


Next to get the chop was the willow by the pond, Salix alba Britzensis, each year I keep telling myself that I should make something out of the rods but never seem to get round to it.

Pollarded willow

We have pollarded this willow so that we can still see it from the house, if we had coppiced it, only the very top would have been visible.


I hate doing this to my red stemmed Cornus, but needs must. I have really enjoyed them since November when the leaves dropped.

Coppiced Cornus

Well that’s the first one done, only another 14 to go! All the Cornus alba sibirica Westonbirt bushes get coppiced  as they grow 8ft easily each year, especially last year with all the rain!


Next on the list were the Buddlejas, we seem to have acquired quite a number of these too, one day I will stop making work for myself!


Depending on where these bushes are, determines how ruthless I am when cutting back, this one here got off quite lightly!


All the clematis in the garden have started sprouting, some need attention , some don’t. The montanas that are up out huge trees, don’t need any thing doing to them, the same with the macropetalas and alpinas. The pergola here has a C. viticella  up each post, or even two. so action is needed.

Clematis viticella

It’s best not to look up when cutting clematis back, you are bound to remove lots of new shoots sprouting all the way up to the top. At least now we can walk through the pergola to the veggie beds without getting tangled up every time!


All around the garden are lots of hydrangeas. The brown flower heads have protected the new shoots over the worst of the winter and it is now time for them to go.


I’m sure they feel as I do when I’ve had a good haircut, the flower heads can be composted, they soon rot down.


Hardy Fuchsias seem to do well on our soil, so yes, once again, I have collected quite a few. Some grow very tall like this Fuchsia magellanica alba, growing up the wall at the back, so this one doesn’t get cut back hard as it has room to grow upwards without hiding anything.


There is also  Rosa Buff Beauty growing with  this fuchsia so it was pruned at the same time. When in flower this fuchsia looks like a wall of little icicles.


Leaves of Epimedium need cutting back so that when the flowers are formed in a months time, they can be seen. This plant has grown so big now, the flowers would be below the level of the leaves, so it would flower unseen.


Not much left now, but new leaves will appear very soon and the dainty yellow flowers will be seen at their best.

Climbing rose

The climbing roses on the pergola are the next to be tackled, maybe tomorrow, weather permitting. The framework is in place wound round the uprights and the horizontals, it is just the sideshoots that will need pruning. This means that once the flowers start opening, they keep coming all through the summer.

Shredding to be done

The downside to all this cutting back is the shredding that needs to be done, never mind it will be used as a mulch somewhere and eventually improve the soil. What a difference cutting back has made to the garden, along with cutting the grass for the first time, it is looking a lot tidier and is encouraging me to go out and do more!



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16 Responses to Major cut backs.

  1. Cathy says:

    My goodness, you have worked hard Pauline, although the photographic evidence suggests that you have had at least a little assistance. As you say, everything will benefit from these cut backs even though it does seem a shame about the cornus – but we know it will haveits rewards later in the year. I haven’t cut back my epimedium before, except for tatty leaves, but will rethink it after reading your post.

    • Pauline says:

      Yes Cathy, the undergardener cut the bamboo, willow and cornus then I did the rest! Having sunshine for 2 days made such a difference, so warm I even had to remove my jacket while working!! I have cut the epimedium leaves back ever since Carol Klein told us to on Gardener’s World many years ago and it seems to work as the flowers don’t have very long stalks on this variety.

  2. Christina says:

    You have been busy Pauline, the sunshine obviously inspired you get outside as it did me, although today is rather different and I have been kept indoors by horrible weather. We even have possible snow forecast for next week so I hope your hydrangeas won’t be damaged if your weather is similar. Christina

    • Pauline says:

      Yes Christina, the sunshine got us working! It was dull today but still a lot warmer than it has been lately. Weather is coming from the west at the moment, rain forecast again so the hydrangeas should be ok.

  3. Very satisfying to see the products of your labours piled up like that, though it does always seem to take twice as long to clear up after a hefty pruning session as it did to do the deed itself! Hydrangea pruning is next on my job list.

    • Pauline says:

      I totally agree Janet, shredding that lot will take all day! The garden looks a lot better having had its major prune, just like I do after a good haircut!

  4. pbmgarden says:

    You made a lot of progress. I imagine it’s a good feeling to have a chance to get out and work on these tasks. Mine have been delayed, but hope to get back to them this weekend.

    • Pauline says:

      It made such a difference Susie having the sun on our backs as we worked, the first time we have felt warm in the garden this year! Back to rain today with colder weather next week! Have a good weekend!

  5. Kate says:

    I’m very impressed by your activity – we’ve had a go, but insignificant by comparison. It’s definitely time to deal with the hydrangea – yours looks so neat and tidy. Sigh!

    • Pauline says:

      We still have a couple of hydrangeas to do Kate, its now raining so they will have to wait, along with the roses on the pergola. They are now earmarked for the next dry day! A bit of sunshine made so much difference to the garden, we made the most of it!

  6. catmint says:

    dear pauline, what a satisfying post, it felt good to see those beautiful neat pruning cuts and those lovely off cuts just waiting to become mulch. The only thing I feel sorry for you about is the bamboo – if it behaves as rampantly as it does here. And it sounds as if it does if it was growing in the lawn.

    • Pauline says:

      Don’t worry about the bamboo Catmint, by chopping it back each year we curb its enthusiasm. It has to put all its energy into growing new stalks and hasn’t any energy left to explore further. We learnt the hard way! The garden looks so much tidier now that we have done most of the pruning, just as well as today has been very wet with yet more torrential rain!

  7. debsgarden says:

    You have worked hard to get everything ready for new spring growth, and your garden will look fabulous! Pruning is my favorite of all garden chores. I still have some to do and had better get busy!

    • Pauline says:

      Most of it done now Deb, but yesterday it poured down all day, so no work done at all in the garden! The garden certainly looks better having been given “the chop” and with the grass having its first cut, it has made such a difference.

  8. Caro says:

    Oh I love a good chop! For the past two years I’ve had my sights set on starting to hack back some more of our overgrown community garden. I’ve now bought myself a folding pruning saw and did some very satisfying pruning on Saturday to a large Viburnam botnantense – as advised by my tutor, chopping out whole stems from the base. A rose planted in its shade was the next to be chopped; I suspect it’s a climbing rose due to the long whippy stems but it has nowhere to climb and never flowers so I’m going to dig that one out. And last weekend it was the turn of the fruit trees. A very satisfying “job done”! (And the next job is to chop off the hydrangea heads in the border under my balcony – a timely reminder, thanks!)

    • Pauline says:

      I do too Caro, I feel a lot better after chopping and the garden looks so much better too! I find a folding pruning saw so much easier to handle than loppers when in a restricted space. I’ve still not quite finished the hydrangea heads, the weather has been against me, but as soon as I can get out again, that job will be finished, the wind is icy at the moment but our snow didn’t last long thank goodness!

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