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Spring is my favorite time of year as we get to spend time outside playing in the garden. Here is an overview of how to effectively care for your plants and shrubs. Shrub pruning can be done once the temperature stays over 40F or 4.5C.

Shrubs and Plants

Spring is the time to treat your plants to some TLC. Check shrubs for dead branches or winter damage and prune out broken or torn branches using clean cuts. Trim any perennials or grasses that have been left through winter. Shade plants such as hostas should be cleared of any debris or leaves to prevent rot.  Wet leaves made soggy from winter rain and snow need to be removed from the crown of the plant for healthy perennial growth.

Hard Prune Shrubs

Pruning deciduous shrubs now will reward you later with a vigorous show of flowers. Many shrubs benefit greatly from being hard pruned. Shrubs such as Buddleja (butterfly bush), Cornus (dogwood shrub) and Cotinus (purple-leafed smoke bush) get cut right back for a grand show in summer.  You can cut your dogwood shrubs right to a couple of inches above ground, this encourages a surge of new, bright red canes to sprout out for your enjoyment next winter when all the leaves are gone.  Butterfly bush can be cut back to its trunk-like structure. Long, arcing branches will grow from this base – and rather quickly, I might add! Smoke bush can be given the same treatment as butterfly bush.  Decide on the skeleton you’d like to keep, and cut branches back to this architectural structure from which your plant will take shape. Remember that hard pruning of shrubs with deciduous leaves actually rejuvenates the plant, encouraging it to grow vigorously.

Hydrangea Pruning

Hydrangea paniculata Limelight

Hydrangea Limelight

Hydrangeas will greatly benefit from having one third of existing branches cut out.  Remember, on remaining branches, to leave the top buds that were formed last year as they are this year’s flowers.  Hydrangea pruning can seem to be intimidating, but by following these hydrangea pruning tips you will have a gorgeous plant with big, showy flowers. Cut out branches using a pair of loppers, make cuts three to four inches above ground level. Choose older branches that are thicker than the others, where the bark is separating and peeling off in papery strips.

Embrace Your Roses

When pruning roses, I like to follow a couple of rules of thumb. If you pruned your roses in fall, then follow your cuts from the previous season and shorten the remaining branch so that there are three new buds above last year’s cut. If you are pruning your rose for the first time since last spring, aim to leave three buds on each branch above the cuts you made last year. For climbing roses, you will be cutting back several feet off each limb. Another great tip for pruning roses is to leave the top bud facing to the outside of the plant, this will encourage the branch to grow outward, instead of crossing back into the centre of the rose bush. Spring is the perfect time to cut out dead, brown branches and anything that has been damaged or torn during the winter months.  To really invigorate the plant, cut out 2-3 of the oldest canes.  Look right at the base of the plant and cut out a cane that is thick and becoming woody. This encourages new canes to sprout right from the base.  Do this trick and you will be rewarded with amazing blooms come summer. With roses being so susceptible to diseases such as black spot, I always disinfect my pruning shears before and after working on roses.  This is an easy way to prevent the spread of disesase.

Trim Hedges into Perfect Shape

Formal hedges also benefit from a shaping to look clean with manicured, straight lines.  This can be done by hand with shears or using powered trimmers. This task is great to do in spring as it sets the shape of your hedges before the push of new growth, making it much easier to keep your hedge’s form intact.

Embrace your garden in spring. The plants and your shrubs will reward you for your early season efforts.

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