Lavender and rosemary shrubs may need trimming back now and we cut our lavender par terre this month into its geometric shape. Once it is pruned back to the wood the new bright green growth quickly comes through and as the weather warms up it turns to silver, caused by tiny hairs appearing on the leaves which protect them from the hot sun. You can also trim back lantana now as well. Other trees and shrubs that benefit from a trim include Caesalpinia gilliesii and Leucophyllum frutescens, which can grow too big for a domestic garden if left untouched. The latter is being used in towns in urban planting where the very attractive delicate pink flowers nestle amongst the grey foliage. Although the weather may be chilly, topiaries will be putting on growth and if not kept trimmed can quickly lose their shape. They are expensive to buy and are usually imported from Italy where many years work has gone into them before they reach the garden centres, so don’t forget them. It is so much easier to trim the new growth than the hard wood.
This is also the time to be pruning prunus trees before the sap starts to rise. Try to keep the centre of the tree open and remove any dead, diseased or crossing branches to allow air to blow through the tree. Tip cut some of the ends of the branches before they grow too long and the fruits become difficult to crop. In warmer areas almonds, which belong to the Prunus family, may be in flower quite soon, so another tree to work on, although we tend to do this in late summer. If you grow a vine then this is the time to take off any remaining leaves and prune it and you can be quite severe. Again do this job before the sap begins to rise or the vine may bleed. New vines can be started by pushing the prunings into the soil, leaving them to make roots over time. However, vines need attention, so don’t grow them if you can’t spare the time to look after them.
Succulents are beginning to send up flower stems and Aeonium arboreum may well have flowers atop the stems already. Established aloes will be thrusting their flower stems upwards with Aloe ferox amongst the first, their bright orangey-red poker-like flowers brightening up the border. These plants grow too big for pots and are best grown in the ground. Don’t be afraid to move plants, especially at this time of year, if they are not doing well. Maybe the first place you chose wasn’t right for them, so give them another chance in a fresh place.
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