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Tidying the March garden: Pruning tips

Rose pruning

winter rose pruningThis is the best time of year to prune bush and shrub roses (not climbers or ramblers, which should have been done in the autumn). Remove all winter damage and don’t worry about pruning bush roses hard; it will help them produce really good growth and flowers in summer.

By thinning overcrowded growth you’ll be letting in more light and air and avoiding problems with pests and diseases. Cuts must be clean so use a good pair of SHARP secateurs; you might also need loppers for thicker shoots. Cut out any shoots that are crossing or rubbing against each other. Always prune to the outward facing bud. The harder you prune the more vigorous the growth will be.

Other pruning jobs

Dogwood, shrubby willows, and ornamental Rubus, grown for their winter coloured stems, should be cut down hard. The reason is that the best stem colour is produced by year-old shoots. Cut them down to about one or two buds of last year’s growth to leave a stubby framework. Prune late-flowering shrubs, such as Buddleja, in the same way, to give a better display in the autumn.


Cut down all growth from last year’s perennial plants that you left over winter, even if the seed heads are still looking good; you need to get rid of them now to make way for new growth. Perennial plants will also benefit from an application of good general fertiliser.



It’s essential to protect young, tender shoots of Delphiniums, Hostas, Lupins and other vulnerable plants from slug damage at this time of year. These pests can do a lot of damage to newly emerging shoots before they’ve barely emerged from the soil and you might not be aware of this until the leaves begin to open up. The best organic method of protection is to put a layer of coarse grit around the base of the plant.

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