Jobs to do this week: Shall I prune Salix but leave Forsythia alone?

PUBLISHED: 16:14 05 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:14 05 April 2019

Mulch Azalea and camellia now. It will pay off later   Picture: RHS/CLIVE NICHOLS

Mulch Azalea and camellia now. It will pay off later Picture: RHS/CLIVE NICHOLS


In cooler areas, and before the month is too old, we can still move and plant evergreen trees and shrubs, provided the soil is not waterlogged. They are best moved or planted once actively growing and when there is less risk of cold weather.

In colder areas, we can also still plant container-grown deciduous hedging plants, shrubs, trees and climbers. Stakes and rabbit guards should be put in place at the time of planting to prevent damage to the rootball and bark.

Remember that watering and establishment may be problematic for large plants as the weather gets warmer and dryer, and you may be better delaying planting them until October.

General care for trees and shrubs: Mulch rose and shrub beds with an 8cm (3in) layer of organic matter. This will help retain moisture during dry spells, reduce weed build-up and over time improve soil structure. Pay particular attention to mulching around rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, as flowering is impaired if they are allowed to dry out during late summer.

Feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a balanced fertiliser (such as Growmore or blood, fish and bone), sprinkling it over the root area before hoeing into the soil surface. This will particularly benefit young, weak, damaged or heavily-pruned plants.

Pruning and training: Winter-stemmed shrubs such as Salix and Cornus can still be cut back as early as possible this month. Prune back hard all the previous year’s growth to within 1-2cm (0.5-0.75in) of the framework.

Other shrubs that are routinely stooled (cut back hard) in spring, to keep their larger or more brightly coloured juvenile foliage, such as the smoke bush (Cotinus) and elders (Sambucus), can be cut back in April. You can leave a couple of branches unpruned if you are reluctant to lose all the height gained last year.

Delay pruning spring-flowering shrubs such as Forsythia and Chaenomeles until after they have finished flowering; otherwise, this year’s display will be lost. Remove any frost-damaged shoots from evergreens damaged by earlier cold weather.

The Royal Horticultural Society wants to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener place. Members benefit from free, year-round, gardening advice. www.rhs.org.uk

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