How to Prune Mediterranean Plants

For many of us the thought of a helpless plant having its limbs hacked

off by a human evokes a sense of horror and the feeling that the poor

plant is suffering a terrible, un-natural ordeal in the process. However

by leaving certain plants without correct pruning we are in actual fact

creating far more suffering and hardship for those plants and there

are some very logical yet natural reasons why…

forest fire

Many plants in their natural habitat suffer seemingly catastrophic

events, which at first glance would appear to be disastrous for their

survival. Take a forest fire for example, in a natural situation forest

fires can develop frequently and can often destroy vast swathes of woodland,

leaving an apparent destruction in their wake. Many plants however rely

on those forest fires for their survival and have become quite used

to the arrival of this totally natural phenomena.

Therefore when we take a common plant like Spanish broom (Spartium

junceum), which

blooming shrubsrelies

on fire to remain lush and healthy, from its natural habitat on a Mediterranean

hillside and plant it in our safe gardens we have already isolated that

plant from most of the natural phenomena that determine its survival.

In a garden it will rarely be set ablaze by the violent lightening strikes

during the hot, dry summers and will therefore not be burnt to the ground

during that period. Pruning, in theory, should therefore somehow aim

to replicate the occurrence of natural events within the safe environment

of our gardens and provide the plant with a series of interventions

that replicate its natural state as closely as possible and make it

feel… at home.

A Spanish broom that is left to

grow for several years without a renovating prune will simply become

congested and decidedly unhappy, causing about as much pain and suffering

as possible! The difficulty comes when trying to figure out which plants

need what kind of pruning and when.

Plants can be divided into several groups, regarding their pruning

requirements:

GROUP ONE – DECIDUOUS SHRUBS:

deciduous shrubs

are among a large number of plants that require little or no pruning,

such as Magnolias and Acers etc and really only require the occasional

branch removed at planting to develop a healthy shape.

GROUP TWO – FLOWERING DECIDUOUS SHRUBS:

deciduous shrub

such as Rosemary, Forsythia, Deutzia or Kolwitzia which flower in

spring or early summer produce their flower- bearing shoots during the

previous growing season and if left un-pruned can become overgrown and

slowly produce less flowers and predominantly at the tips of their stems-

on the new growth. Such plants should be pruned after flowering to allow

for new growth to develop during the growing season, which will provide

flowers for the following year. A simple removal of old, flowered stems

will ensure the reproduction of healthy, flower-bearing growth for the

following season.

GROUP TWO EXCEPTIONS:

plants picture

There are however exceptions to this category, including; Deutzias,

mop-head Hydrangeas and Spanish broom that make most of their new growth

from the base of the plant. Shrubs in this sub-category should have

their old, flowered stems removed right down to ground-level after flowering

to ensure a cycle of reproductive growth.

GROUP THREE – FLOWERS PRODUCED ON CURRENT SEASONS GROWTH:

plants garden

plants that flower in the summer or autumn on the current seasons

growth, which include; Lavender, Ceanothus, certain Hydrangeas and Perowskia

etc. These plants require a hard prune in early spring to stimulate

the growth that will carry the flowers for the same season.

By following these simple rules one can begin to develop a garden

that follows natural rhythms very closely yet at that same time provide

you with the maximum flowering potential, a very happy plant and an

extremely natural garden indeed!

butterfly flower

By Jonathon Radford

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