• Alison Murray

Things to do in the garden during lockdown day 35: prune early spring flowering shrubs

Early spring flowering shrubs will produce a better display next year if they are pruned straight after flowering.


Two Chaenomeles, speciosa and 'Crimson and Gold', Spiraea thunbergii and Osmanthus delavayi are all due for a hair cut in my garden, and today is the day of destruction. I have just hacked back the Spiraea with the shears, the lovely soft grass-green leaves will soon grow back and the bush will form a fluffy dome again. The osmanthus hedge only went in in February and has flowered beautifully, tiny though it is, a good clip back will help produce a tight hedge right from the lower branches. It is really worth remembering to prune lower branches to encourage branching, so the shrub doesn't end up bald at the bottom!


Spiraea thunbergii
After pruning

Chaenomeles are called 'bo-keh (木瓜)' in Japanese like the word bokeh which means stupid. This is apparently because the branches grow in a tangled fashion and they don't like to be trained. The word stems from 'mokeh' (木/mok is tree, 瓜/ka is melon). Thanks Jiro (@bakase998) for verifying this. Sure enough the branches do what they want, so it is worth getting in with a pair of gloves (the spines are vicious) and cutting back to the final shape before taking out cross branches. Pruning to an outward facing bud or node will encourage a less tangled shrub.


Chaenomeles speciosa
After pruning

Don't forget you turn the prunings into cuttings. I have done this with Chaenomeles 'Crimson and Gold' which will make good presents in the future. My green bins are now full so I've piled the branches up behind the bush to encourage the insects, I'll eventually shred them and put them in my new Corona compost bin dedicated to mulch.


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