Pruning your garden in Autumn and Winter

Your guide to trimming trees and shrubs

Pruning is essential to a healthy and productive garden, in fact it’s one of the best things you can do for your trees and shrubs. Cutting back plants can encourage flowering, help define shape, control growth, and reduce the risk of infection. You can prune different plants throughout the year, however, there are some trees and shrubs that must be pruned at this time of year to ensure healthy growth. Carry on reading to discover what to prune in autumn and winter, as well as some top tips for pruning your garden.

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What is pruning?

If you’re new to the wonderful world of gardening, you may be wondering what pruning is, and why it’s so important. Simply put, pruning is purposefully cutting back and removing branches on your trees and shrubs. There are various benefits to pruning:

  • Controls growth
  • Defines shape of shrubs and trees
  • Reduces the risk of infection
  • Promotes bigger harvests
  • Encourages flowering

Why should I prune my plants in autumn?

One of the main reasons we prune in autumn is to manage the size of trees and shrubs. Autumn is the perfect time to remove old and damaged growth and trim your plants back into shape to help prevent any fungal diseases from setting in.

What to prune in autumn

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Fruit bushes

When to prune fruit bushes

You can prune your fruit bushes anytime in autumn and winter when they are dormant (between October and early March). We suggest thinning out your bushes in autumn and giving them another prune in late winter just before they come out of dormancy.

How to prune fruit bushes in autumn

Thin out your fruit bushes (such as gooseberries, blackcurrants, and redcurrants) by pruning out the fruited stems. You can also prune summer-fruiting raspberries once they’ve finished their fruiting period by cutting the canes to the ground.

Pruning tip #1

Pruning should always be done on a dry day. If you cut back branches and stems on a rainy day, there will be more chance of fungal infections entering the new cuts.

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Herbaceous perennials

When to prune herbaceous perennials

You can cut back herbaceous perennials (such as artemisia, campanula, and coreopsis) in October and November. By the time autumn arrives, many herbaceous perennials have become overgrown with old foliage and dead flowers. So, autumn is a great time to cut old foliage back to the ground.

How to prune herbaceous perennials in autumn

Remove spent flower stems by cutting them at an angle, as low as possible. Don’t cut back perennials with attractive seedheads, such as thistles – as they will add structure over winter. Plus, they’ll provide food and shelter for wildlife.

how to prune yew hedges

Yew hedges

When to prune yew hedges

Yew hedges are hardy, tough, and very forgiving. They can tolerate later pruning than most other hedges. So, if you want to prune it just once a year – we suggest you do so in early autumn. This will give it time to harden off before the frost sets in, so your yew hedge will look crisp all the way through the winter and into spring.

How to prune yew hedges in autumn

Use a hedge trimmer to cut back any straggling side growth to keep your hedge looking neat. A yew hedge is one of the easiest hedges to trim.

Pruning tip #2

Take good care for your pruning tools. You want to keep the blades on your secateurs and loppers sharp to ensure they do the job properly. Give them a wipe down after you finish pruning and use a bit of WD40 to prevent rusting.

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Deciduous ornamental trees

When to prune deciduous ornamental trees

The best time to prune deciduous trees is in autumn and winter when they are dormant, and all their leaves have fallen off.

How to prune deciduous ornamental trees in autumn

Start off by removing smaller branches with secateurs. Then cut off any dead or diseased branches and get rid of any that are blocking growth with a pruning saw. Be careful to space out your pruning, rather than just chopping back the entire canopy.

Why should I prune my plants in Winter?

Pruning in winter is beneficial for your plant’s health – cutting back diseased stems will help to keep your plants strong and healthy. Winter pruning takes place when the plants are dormant, after all the leaves have fallen. This makes pruning a lot easier as you can clearly see the structure of the plant you’re working with.

What to prune in winter

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Climbing roses

When to prune climbing roses

You should routinely prune your roses in winter, between December and February once the flowers have disappeared.

How to prune roses in winter

Begin by cutting away any dead or diseased branches. If the plant is overcrowded, then cut some old branches right back to the ground. Cut flowered side shoots back by around two thirds their length. When pruning climbing roses, make sure you cut just above a bud that points in the direction you want the new stem to grow. After pruning, make sure you use a specialist rose feed to help promote healthy growth.

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When to prune wisteria

Wisteria can be pruned twice a year, during summer and then again during winter. For winter pruning, we suggest cutting wisteria back in January or February.

How to prune wisteria in winter

Tidy up your wisteria before the growing season commences. Cut summer-pruned shoots back to two to three buds. And any long shoots that grew after the summer pruning should also be pruned. Cut these back to fix or six buds from the main branch, making the cut just above a bud.

Pruning tip #3

Make a slanted cut just above the bud at a 45-degree angle - sloping away from the bud. This is so that water doesn’t gather in the cut, as this could cause an infection.

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Clematis Group 3

When to prune clematis

Clematis is grouped into three different pruning groups, based on when it flowers. If your clematis flowers in July or August, then you’ll need to prune it in late winter – February to March.

How to prune clematis in winter

For a gorgeous flower display in summer and autumn, cut your clematis in February to a couple of feet from the ground. It’s important that you remove all the dead growth above, otherwise your clematis will become tangled and won’t flower properly.

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Apple and pear trees

When to prune pear and apple trees

You should prune your apple and pear trees when they’re dormant, which is normally between November and March.

How to prune pear and apple trees in winter

Remove dead or diseased growth and cut back any branches that are crossing paths. When cutting back to a bud, ensure you make a slanted cut down and away from the bud, this is to stop rain from pooling. Ensure you keep checking the overall shape of your apple or pear tree before pruning. You’re aiming for a wine glass shape – you want to encourage branches away from the main trunk to allow good air circulation and reduce the chance of fungal infections arising.