Trimming conifers and heathersFirstly conifers can be trimmed during March to tidy and maintain a solid shape, also to remove any winter wind and frost damage. Give them a light outer trimming; do not cut into old wood as new growth on old wood is very rare. The ideal situation would be if you could leave you conifer unpruned. This covers Thuja, Yew, Chamaecyparis, and Juniper etc.
Often planted with conifers are heathers, you may prune these once flowering is over, trim them lightly to remove dead flowers.
Like the heathers another candidate for a light trimming is Santolina chamaecyparissus commonly known as "Cotton lavender", this low growing shrub just requires a clip over to maintain neat growth. Failure to carry out this task regularly results in a loose plant with an open centre.
Shrubs for harder pruningBuddleia cut back? Buddleia davidii commonly known as the "Butterfly bush" can now be cut back to approx 1 to 2 feet above ground level, along with this remove approx 1/3 of old woody stems to just above ground level. This is to promote vigorous new shoots which have improved flowering. If you do not wish to cut the whole plant back to 1 to 2 feet which can sometimes leave you with a gaping hole in your border, you can just remove approx 1/3 of old woody stems to just above ground level.
Other shrubs to treat in this manner at this time are Fuchsia, Lavatera commonly known as "Mallow" and Leycesteria formosa commonly known as "Pheasant berry".
The often badly pruned Hydrangea and ForsythiaAlso for pruning in March is the Hydrangea, treat it as follows......Remove approx 2/3 of the old dead flower-heads to just above the new buds, whilst pruning remove approx 1/3 of old woody stems to just above ground level. We leave the old flower heads on the plant over winter to protect the forming flower buds from the elements.
Forsythia is pruned directly after flowering by cutting out flowered shoots to just above a healthy bud or side shoot, whilst pruning remove approx 1/3 of old woody stems to just above ground level. Cutting Forsythia back hard to keep it in a confined space can result in a mass of leaf and very little flower.
Red stem, berry and leafCornus also known as dogwood should be cut back to within a few inches of the ground in March. For Cotinus coggyria commonly known as the "Smoke bush" trim to shape at the end of March. Cotoneasters can also be trimmed back now without loss of flower or fruit.
Photinia fraseri "Red Robin" should have been given a trim over in early March to allow development of fresh red growth for the summer.
Caryopteris and the dwarf AcersCaryopteris x clandonensis commonly know as the "Blue spirea" is cut back to approx 2 inches (5 cm) above ground level In March, every year. Finally any frost damage to the tips of Japanese maples can be cut off also during March.
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