Winter is the busiest time in the pruning calendar but autumn is a season with plenty to do. It is the perfect time to remove old growth and to get plants into shape. Many plants that boomed in summer borders will need tidying up in autumn. Cut back dead stems and top growth to prevent fungal diseases from setting in on decaying stems. Also thin out the weakest of stems that cross or touch to allow air flow and prevent wind damage.
In general, the best time to prune a flowering tree, shrub, or vine is immediately after it finishes blooming. Prune summer-flowering woody plants in late autumn or winter if you want to encourage more fruit or flowers next season. But you can cut back if the plant is in poor shape or in the way of something else, or if stems are dead, damaged or diseased.
Plants that are OK to prune now are those that make their flower buds on new growth next year.
Fruit bushes such as blueberries, currants and gooseberries will benefit from thinning out, while perennials that lack decorative seed heads should be cut back to the ground. Buddleia and hydrangeas should be pruned in autumn so they will put on new growth early next spring and the flowers will form on those new stems.
Prune climbing roses and deciduous hedges to keep them tidy over winter. Autumn is also the time to prune tender plants such as lavender and rosemary, which will not withstand winter pruning.
But do not prune azalea, flowering cherry, peach, plum, pear, crabapple, forsythia, lilac, rhododendron, magnolia or viburnum in the autumn because these plants will already have next seasons buds and they would be removed.
Make pruning easy by using good quality secateurs, loppers, saws, etc. And keep them sharp and clean to make the job easy and prevent transferring disease from plant to plant. Wiping cutting equipment with dilute bleach or methylated spirit between jobs will sterilise the blades. Dispose of pruned material in green waste, burning or in another way that ensures pests and diseases will not affect plants in the new season.06 May 2021