Garden School:

Garden School:
Teaching this week: Rose pruning (as always!) and water management

Monday, 21 September 2015

Bringing style to a Cotoneaster.

 A little while ago I wrote about the technique of pruning from underneath, as used when dealing with weeping foliage trees.

Now,  to show you that a similar technique can be used on other shrubs, here is a massively overgrown cotoneaster that I was presented with last winter: the Client complained that it was projecting over the pathway, scratching them as they tried to walk past it.

They also thought that it was very ugly and tangled as it was, but they didn't want it completely removed, just tidied up, neatened, and "made more stylish".


Where to start? As with the weeping tree, the first job is to remove any dead wood, anything diseased, and any branches that are damaging themselves or others by rubbing together.

Then I started at ground level and removed most of the lower main branches, to clear the main trunks up to a couple of foot clear of the ground.  This is called "crown lifting" and usually I do it on small garden trees where the owners have to duck their heads to walk underneath it.

(Having to duck under tree branches is one of those things that sets my teeth on edge, so I always promote the Crown Lift technique "in order to make it easier for whoever has to mow the grass", which normally gets the man of the house on my side!)

So, having sawn off the lower branches - which significantly improved the over-dense canopy - I did a quick snip-through of the depleted canopy, this time to remove any branches that were crossing at "ugly" angles.

It's hard to describe exactly what I mean by "ugly" angles other than to say any branch whose angle is really out of line with all the others. "Jangling" is another word I use when teaching this technique, in the sense of "it makes my nerves jangle". When you have a lot of stems all going in one direction, and just one sproinging off in another direction, it "jangles" or, if you prefer designer-speak, it interferes with the harmony of the branches, and has to be removed. This is, needless to say, one of those things that is much easier to demonstrate, than to describe!

Having thinned out the canopy, here is the pile of  "jangling" branches which had been removed:

This sort of material is normally destined for the bonfire pile, but it can be shredded, and then added to the compost heap.

Not a bad pile, eh?

Usually, Clients tend to faint when they see this size of pile, so normally I have to whisk it away in instalments, so they don't realise quite how much has been cut off. Luckily, in this case the Client knows me of old, and is happy to let me get on with the job.

And what, if anything, you might be wondering, was left?

Plenty, is the answer:

Here we are - the main stem has been seriously reduced, the canopy has been frivolously reduced, and what is left now describes an interesting windswept curve from left to right and back again.

We can all now walk along the path without getting scratched, the bed underneath the canopy now has quite a bit more light, and - despite that huge pile of waste material - there is still a lot of the shrub left.

Job done!

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