Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Hibiscus winter pruning

 I love a good Hibiscus - the hardy, shrubby type, that is.

I'm lucky enough to have a pair of them in one of "my" gardens, and they are a joy, all throughout the latter part of summer.

Here's the pair of them, nearly in their full glory, in September: as you can see, they are substantial shrubs, and are a wee bit close to the windows, so every so often, I have to trim off any branches which are trying to get in through the windows, or which are scraping against the glass.

We don't want them to get any bigger, otherwise the owner won't be able to see out of the windows,, but they love the flowers. 

So, how do you keep them like this - big, but not too big and flowering relentlessly?

The answer is, ruthless pruning! Every year!

This is what I do to them, every year without fail. Usually I don't get around to it until about February time, but this year I was asked to do them early, so they had their annual chop last week.

Here is one of them:

This is what you might call "before".

As you can see, the Hibiscus hasn't quite lost all the leaves yet, but the owner asked me to prune it, as it was blocking the light from the windows, and now that it gets dark so early, every scrap of light was appreciated!

My task is to trim off all the new growth which was made this year, going back to my "framework of old wood", ie the older, stouter branches.

It's easy to see which is the new growth: it's long, straight, slender, and there's a whole mass of them, all the same size.

So all I have to do, is go over the entire shrub, one branch at a time, with my secateurs, and snip, snip, snip, off they come. Sounds slow and tiresome, but it's dead easy and faster than you would think: the photo above was taken at 10.44...

 ...and this one, right, at 10.52.

That's only 12 minutes:  and that includes stepping in from the first photo, and assessing the shrub: putting all the bits into the wheelbarrow as I went: and then stepping back to take the second photo. 

So it actually took less than ten minutes.

As you can see, half a barrow full of offcuts, an now the shrub is 2-3' shorter than it was, and a great deal thinner.



This photo, left, gives you a closer look at the denuded branches.

As you can see, I have gone for an overall shape, and within that shape, every branch has been shortened to just above the point at which it left the larger branch.

Every couple of years, I make a few bolder cuts, removing any branches which are starting to look congested.

So there you have it, a quick job with good results. Finishing touches include raking underneath the shrubs, to clear up all the fallen leaves and small bits of debris, and - now that I can get around behind it - a quick weed-round, to get rid of any unwanted infiltrators. 

Job done!



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