When to prune camellia?

How to Prune Small Trees and Shrubs

There’s a right time—and a right way— to prune. Click the arrow below to see diagrams of pruning cuts

Photo by Reena Bammi

Don’t Be Afraid to Make the Cut.

A few minutes spent pruning is one of the best things you can do for the plants in your yard, but it’s one of the most neglected tasks of homeowning. Why? Because for most of us, it’s a black art. The risks of butchery seem high, and the rewards low. “But pruning isn’t difficult,” says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook. “And what you get in return is thicker foliage, more flowers, and healthier plants.” Here we show you a few simple pruning techniques and how to apply them to the shrubs and small trees on your property. Once you’ve mastered them, it’s just a matter of timing. “Most homeowners prune when it’s convenient for them, but that might not be the best time for the plant,” adds Roger. Consulting the plant lists will take the mystery out of this part of pruning as well. Keep reading to learn how you can get the job done with confidence.

Heading cuts remove only part of a shoot or limb and encourage side branching and dense growth. The cut should be made just beyond a healthy bud, angled at 45 degrees and facing away from the bud. Note that new shoots will grow in the direction the bud is pointing.

Illustration by Susan Carlson

Pruning Flowering Shrubs.

Young shrubs should be pruned lightly to make them grow fuller and bushier. With hand pruners, trim long, unbranched stems by cutting just above a healthy bud. This type of pruning, called heading, encourages lower side branches to develop and enhances the shrub’s natural form. When selecting a bud tip to trim to, keep in mind that the new branch will grow out in the direction of the bud. Like most pruning, heading cuts should be timed to avoid disrupting the plant’s flowering.

As a shrub develops, thin out old, weak, rubbing, or wayward branches where they merge with another branch. This opens up the middle of the plant to more sunlight, which keeps interior branches healthy, stimulates growth, and increases flowering.

Thinning cuts remove an entire branch where it meets another limb, the main stem, or the ground. They should be made as close to this junction as possible. These cuts help maintain the plant’s natural shape, limit its size, and open up the interior branches to light and air.

Illustration by Susan Carlson

Older and Neglected Shrubs

Older shrubs that have become a tangle of unproductive stems may require a more extensive program of thinning cuts, called renewal or renovation pruning, that takes at least three years. On shrubs with multiple stems that grow up from the base, like lilac, viburnum, forsythia, and dogwood, gradually remove all of the old stems while leaving the new, flower-producing growth untouched. Eventually, the new flower-producing stems will completely replace the lackluster old growth.

Neglected shrubs may call for a more drastic approach: hard pruning. Most deciduous shrubs that respond well to renewal pruning can also take hard pruning, as will a handful of broadleaf evergreens, such as privet. Using loppers and a pruning saw, cut back all stems to within an inch of the ground during the plant’s winter dormancy. (For more on the correct tools to use, see Choosing and Using Pruners and Loppers) Come spring, the plants will quickly produce new shoots from the base. Of course, this technique will leave you with little to look at while waiting for the new growth.

Remove one-third of the plant’s stems, cutting at the base. This opens up its interior to air and sunlight and encourages new branch and leaf growth.

Illustration by Susan Carlson

Pruning Small Flowering Trees.

Avoid pruning a young or newly planted tree — it needs as many leaves as possible to produce the food required for good root growth. Remove only dead, broken, or injured branches, as well as those that cross or rub each other. And always prune back to a healthy stem or branch without leaving stubs. This eliminates hiding places for pests and diseases, and looks better. Never cut back the plant’s leader — the top-most growing point of the tree — which is vital to letting the tree develop its natural form.

What to Prune from a Tree

A. Suckers that grow from the roots or base of the trunk

B. Limbs that sag or grow close to the ground

C. Branches that form an acute angle with the trunk

D. Watersprouts that shoot up from main “scaffold” branches

E. Limbs that are dead, diseased, or broken

F. Branches that grow parallel to and too close to another

G. Branches that cross or rub against others

H. Limbs that compete with the tree’s central leader

Once the tree is a few years old, shape it gradually over the course of several years to maximize foliage and flowering. The tree’s branches should be well-spaced up the trunk and spiraling around it. As a guideline, prune no more than one-fourth of the tree’s total leaf area in a single year. To raise the tree’s crown or create clearance beneath it, remove the lowest branches. Also target branches that are spaced too closely together or that join the trunk at a narrow angle — 45 degrees or less. These form weak limb attachments and will break easily in wind or under the weight of snow and ice.

Cut away additional old stems while leaving newly formed stems intact. The shrub is now made up of mostly new growth that is ready to flower.

Illustration by Susan Carlson

When Removing an Entire Tree Branch

Cut as close to the branch collar — the swollen ring of bark where the limb meets the main stem or trunk — as possible without cutting into it. When cutting branches more than 1 inch in diameter, avoid tearing or stripping bark by using a pruning saw and the three-cut method shown below. A good pruning cut will heal quickly and naturally without the use of dressings or poultices.

Three-cut branch removal

To prune a tree limb cleanly and safely, as shown in the image above, use a pruning saw and make these three sequential cuts:

1. On the bottom of the limb between 6 and 12 inches from the trunk; cut about one-quarter of the way through.

2. Through the limb from the top, starting about 1 inch beyond the first cut. (The weight of the branch may cause it to snap off before the cut is complete.)

3. Completely through the short remaining stub from top to bottom just beyond the swollen branch collar. (Support the stub while sawing, to make a clean cut.)

Remove fast-growing stems, called suckers, that grow up from the roots or the base of the trunk as they appear, as well as the extravigorous (and often weakly attached) shoots, called watersprouts, that grow straight up from the trunk or branches.

Mature trees require only occasional pruning to maintain their structure and appearance. Never make the mistake of cutting off the top of a tree’s canopy to reduce its size. Topping typically leaves the tree much less attractive and much more prone to weak growth and pests.

What to prune: A. Suckers that grow from the roots or base of the trunk; B. Limbs that sag or grow close to the ground; C. Branches that form an acute angle with the trunk; D. Watersprouts that shoot up from main “scaffold” branches; E. Limbs that are dead, diseased, or broken; F. Branches that grow parallel to and too close to another; G. Branches that cross or rub against others; H. Limbs that compete with the tree’s central leader

Illustration by Susan Carlson

Pruning Conifers.

Needle-leafed evergreens fall into two basic groups: random branching and whorled branching. Each requires a different pruning technique.

Evergreens with random-branching patterns — arborvitae, hemlock, juniper, and yew — should be pruned in the same manner as a flowering tree or shrub. Use heading cuts to encourage dense growth and thinning cuts made close to the trunk to maintain the tree’s shape. One important difference: Heading cuts will only sprout new branches if the remaining branch still has needles growing on it.

Whorled-branching evergreens — fir, spruce, and pine — are quite different. These plants have pale growth buds, called candles, that develop at the branch tips in the spring. Instead of making heading cuts, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch off the new, light-colored growths while they’re still soft. This will maintain plant size and produce denser growth. You won’t want to make thinning cuts to whorled-branching evergreens — they will produce a dead snag, not new growth. The only exception is spruce trees: They have side buds that will sprout if trimmed back to the previous year’s growth.

Three-cut branch removal: 1. On the bottom of the limb between 6 and 12 inches from the trunk; cut about one-quarter of the way through; 2. Through the limb from the top, starting about 1 inch beyond the first cut. (The weight of the branch may cause it to snap off before the cut is complete.); 3. Completely through the short remaining stub from top to bottom just beyond the swollen branch collar.

Illustration by Susan Carlson

When to Prune

There is important pruning that can be done anytime — namely, the removal of dead, weak, damaged, or crossing branches. But poorly timed pruning, like that done in the fall or early winter, can injure a plant and stunt or even eliminate its foliage and flower production. What follows are the three recommended pruning “seasons” for various common trees and shrubs across the country. Stick to this schedule to keep plants healthy and maximize blossoms. When in doubt, Roger Cook suggests, postpone pruning until right after the plant flowers.

Late Winter/Early Spring

Prune summer-flowering plants, which will flower on the coming season’s new growth, while they are still dormant. Their bare limbs make it easy to see the plant’s structure, and the flush of spring growth will quickly heal wounds. Prune random-branching conifers once new growth is visible.

Shrubs

Beautyberry (Callicarpa species)

Bumald spiraea (Spiraea bumalda)

Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

Japanese spiraea (Spiraea japonica)

Nandina (Nandina domestica)

Privet (Ligistrum species)

Repeat-flowering roses (Rosa species)

Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Summersweet (Clethra species)

Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)

Late Winter/Early Spring (cont.)

Trees

Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia species)

Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans)

Golden-rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)

Sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana)

Random-branching conifers

Arborvitae (Thuja species)

Cypress (Cupressus species)

Hemlock (Tsuga species)

Juniper (Juniperus species)

Southern yew (Podocarpus macrophyllus)

True cedar (Cedrus species)

Yew (Cephalotaxus and Taxus species)

Late Spring/Early Summer

Prune spring-flowering plants immediately after their blossoms fade. Because they produce flowers only on old growth from the previous season, pruning soon after bloom will maximize flower production the next year. Pinch the candles on whorled-branching conifers when you see new growth.

Shrubs

Azalea (Rhododendron species)

Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)

Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Bridal wreath spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia)

Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

Deutzia (Deutzia species)

Flowering quince (Chaenomeles species)

Forsythia (Forsythia species)

Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica)

Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica)

Mock orange (Philadelphus species)

Rhododendron (Rhododendron species)

Weigela (Weigela florida)

Late Spring/Early Summer (cont.)

Trees

Flowering almond (Prunus species)

Flowering cherry (Prunus serrulata)

Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus)

Ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana)

Redbud (Cercis species)

Saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier species)

Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

Witch hazel (Hamamelis species)

Whorled-branching Conifers Fir (Abies species)

Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

Pine (Pinus species)

Spruce (Picea species)

Midsummer

Prune “bleeding” trees — those with exceptionally heavy spring sap flow — after their leaves have fully developed.

Birch (Betula species)

Dogwood (Cornus species)

Elm (Ulmus species)

Maple (Acer species)

Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea)

Resources

Our thanks to:

Deborah Brown, University of Minnesota Extension horticulturist

Landscape Contractor:

Roger Cook

K & R Tree and Landscape

Burlington, MA

For more information:

The Pruning Book

by Lee Reich

Taunton Press

Newtown, CT

When is a good time to trim back bushes and hedges in the fall?

The proper time to prune deciduous and evergreen shrubs is determined by the plant’s growth habit, bloom time, and health or condition.
Spring-flowering shrubs, such as lilac and forsythia, bloom in spring on the growth of the previous season. The health or condition of the plants determines the best time to prune spring-flowering shrubs.

Neglected, overgrown spring-flowering shrubs often require extensive pruning to rejuvenate or renew the plants. The best time to rejuvenate large, overgrown shrubs is late winter or early spring (March or early April). Heavy pruning in late winter or early spring will reduce or eliminate the flower display for 2 or 3 years. However, rejuvenation pruning will restore the health of the shrub.

The best time to prune healthy, well-maintained spring-flowering shrubs is immediately after flowering. (Healthy, well-maintained shrubs should require only light to moderate pruning.) Pruning immediately after flowering allows gardeners to enjoy the spring flower display and provides adequate time for the shrubs to initiate new flower buds for next season.

Summer-flowering shrubs, such as potentilla and Japanese spirea, bloom in summer on the current year’s growth. Prune summer-flowering shrubs in late winter or early spring. The new growth produced by pruned shrubs will bloom in summer.

Some deciduous shrubs don’t produce attractive flowers. These shrubs may possess colorful bark, fruit, or foliage. Prune these shrubs in late winter or early spring before growth begins.

Prune evergreen shrubs, such as juniper and yew, in early to mid-April before new growth begins. Light pruning may also be done in mid-summer.

Fall pruning is generally not recommended.

Time of year (when to prune)

Home > Pruning shade trees > Time of year

The best time to prune live branches may depend on the desired results. Growth is maximized and defects are easier to see on deciduous trees if live-branch pruning is done just before growth resumes in early spring. Pruning when trees are dormant can minimize the risk of pest problems associated with wounding and allows trees to take advantage of the full growing season to begin closing and compartmentalizing wounds. A few tree pathogens, such as the oak wilt fungus, may be spread if pruning wounds are made when the pathogen vectors are active. Susceptible trees should not be pruned during active transmission periods. Trees with Dutch elm disease should have symptomatic branches removed as soon as a branch shows flagging. Susceptible, uninfected elms should not be pruned during the growing season in regions where this disease is a problem.

Removal of dying, diseased, broken, or dead limbs can be accomplished at any time with little negative effect on the tree. Plant growth can be reduced if live-branch pruning takes place during or soon after the initial growth flush. This is when trees have just expended a great deal of stored energy to produce roots, foliage, and early shoot growth so pruning at this time is usually not recommended due to the potential stresses. Stressed trees should not be pruned at this time.

Flowering can be prevented or enhanced by pruning at the appropriate time of the year. To retain the most flowers on landscape trees that bloom on current season’s growth, such as crape-myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.) or linden (Tilia spp.), these trees are pruned in winter, prior to leaf emergence, or in the summer just after bloom. Plants that bloom on last season’s wood, such as Prunus, should be pruned just after bloom in order to preserve the flower display. Fruit trees can be pruned during the dormant season to enhance structure and distribute fruiting wood, and they are pruned after bloom to thin fruit.

Certain species of trees, such as maples (Acer spp.) and birches (Betula spp.), drip sap when pruned in the early spring when sap flow is heavy (see table below). Although unattractive, sap drainage has little negative effect on tree growth. Some of the sap dripping can be avoided by pruning in summer or at other times of the year.

Trees that drip sap when pruned in late winter/early spring.

Avocado
Birch
Cottonwood
Elm
Flowering dogwood

Hackberry
Honeylocust
Magnolia
Maple
Mesquite

Poplar
Silk-oak
Walnut
Willow

Q: I have a camellia that needs pruning, but I need to know when. It blooms in the fall, then immediately stops. In the spring, it puts out profuse growth. — Betty Roper, email

A: The best time to prune your sasanqua camellia is right after it finishes blooming in winter. There should be no problem in pruning it as late as May. Similarly, most japonica camellias have finished their spring blooming, so they can be pruned, too. The best way to prune is not to simply shorten limbs but to remove individual limbs where they join the trunk or a bigger limb. Simply cut at the joint and don’t leave a stub.

Q: When do magnolia trees normally drop their leaves? Our trees are dropping them fast after turning yellow. — Betty Lentz, Woodstock

A: It is completely normal for magnolia trees to lose lots of yellow leaves at this time of year. They are shedding old leaves and growing new ones on the ends of the branches. My neighbor’s lawn is covered with old leaves. Rake them up and be done with them.

Q: Our Bermuda grass was planted last October. How tall should we let it grow before we cut it? How do you determine height when adjusting the mower? — Dennard W., email

A: You can cut it 2 inches high when it reaches 3 inches high. A month from now reduce the height to 1½ inches high when the grass is 2½ inches high. To determine height, mow a little spot and use a ruler to find out how high your mower is cutting.

Q: I have two 5-year-old apple trees, Granny Smith and Fuji, from a big box store. I have only seen one apple on these two trees in all this time. They do produce flowers in the spring. The trees appear to be healthy. Any advice? — Jodi Phillips, email

A: If they are blooming, but you’re not getting apples, this might point to a pollination problem. Are you absolutely, positively sure they were correctly labeled at the store? These varieties should bloom at the same time. But the problem might be heavy rains during the time the blooms were on the trees or a lack of bees to carry the pollen back and forth. If you know someone who has a crabapple that blooms around the time of your apples, cut several branches and stick them among the limbs of your trees during flowering next spring, so you can be certain the blooms are pollinated readily.

Q: There are dead tree trunks a distance away from our house. They are almost mulch; if you drop one, they fall apart. Is this broken down enough to mix with clay using a tiller? — Jeff Spoor, email

A: I think the broken down tree material would make an excellent soil amendment. Once wood is so decomposed that it breaks apart easily, it will no longer rob nitrogen from plants that you install afterward. Crumble it up and till it in at your leisure.

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When Should you Prune Camellias?

As a general rule of thumb, camellias, like most flowering shrubs, should be pruned immediately after they are finished blooming. This allows the shrub time to form new growth and flower buds before the next cycle of bloom. For camellia japonica (late winter/spring blooming), this usually means mid- to late spring, and late fall through late spring for fall blooming sasanqua camellias. However, if you are more concerned with shaping your camellia and don’t mind losing some flowers, it won’t harm them to be pruned any time of year. If you enjoy using camellias as cut flowers, you can even prune as you harvest the blooms. And of course, any diseased or dead growth should be removed as soon as you notice it.

Both types of camellia can develop long shoots in summer that can usually be pruned with little loss of flowers, since this type of rapidly growing, thin branch typically doesn’t form buds. This video shows what these summer shoots look like.

Camellias can be pruned using any of the basic pruning cuts. Thinning cuts remove entire sections of branch back to a larger branch, allowing light and air circulation to surrounding branches. Heading cuts remove a portion of the stem at some point between the beginning of the branch and the tip and are used to encourage multiple branches to develop near the cut, making the plant bushier. Pinching, which removes just the new growth at the tip, is usually reserved for very young camellia plants to help shape them.

Terribly overgrown camellias can be renovated in a few years in two steps. The first year, remove lower limbs leaving the top third of the shrub intact. Over the growing season the trunk will sprout new growth. The following year, reduce the crown to the desired height. Fertilize well with an acid-plant fertilizer like HollyTone after pruning to encourage healthy growth.

Dwarf and Semi Dwarf

Our selection of camellia cultivars changes frequently. We carry spring blooming japonica, fall and winter flowering sasanqua along with dwarf and semi dwarf. Varieties are seasonal, please check with us to see what we currently have in stock.

Dwarf ‘Albino ACS’

Camellia sasanqua dwarf ‘Albini ACS’. Fall winter flowering, white.

Dwarf ‘Bonanza’

Camellia sasanqua ‘Bonanza’ dwarf 4-5′. Fall winter flowering, petals are a deep pink color with white streaks.

Dwarf ‘October Magic’

Camellia sasanqua ‘October Magic’ dwarf. Light pink double blooms. Fall flowers. A Southern Living Plant Collection bush. 3′ – 5′.

Dwarf ‘Shishi Gashira’

Camellia hiemalis ‘Shishi Gashira’ dwarf. Fall winter flowering, deep pink.

Semi Dwarf ‘Slim and Trim’

Camellia sasanqua ‘Slim and Trim’ semi dwarf. Fall winter flowering, pink.

Large Varieties

‘Altheaiflora’

Camellia japonica ‘Altheaiflora’. Spring flowering, bright red peony bloom.

‘Apple Blossom’

Camellia sasanqua ‘Apple Blossom’. Fall winter flowering, petals are white with light pink edge.

‘Autumn Mist’

Camellia japonica ‘Autumn Mist’. Very pale pink single bloom. Late winter, early spring blooming.

‘Ballet in Pink’

Camellia japonica ‘Ballet in Pink’. Spring flowering, orchid pink peony flower. Fast growing upright bush, mid spring blooming.

‘Berenice Beauty’

Camellia japonica ‘Berenice Beauty’. Spring flowering, pale pink peony bloom.

‘Christmas Beauty’

Camellia japonica ‘Christmas Beauty’ 10′. Late winter flowering, bright red semi double blooms.

‘Cinnamon Scentsation’

Camellia lutchuensis hybrid ‘Cinnamon Scentsation’. Spring flowering, pale pink peony bloom.

‘Cleopatra’

Camellia sasanqua ‘Cleopatra’. Fall winter flowering, semi-double rosy pink.

‘Daydream’

Camellia sasanqua ‘Daydream’. Fall winter flowering, white with delicate pink edge.

‘In The Pink’

Camellia japonica ‘In The Pink’. Spring flowering, soft pink formal bloom.

‘Koto-No-Kaori’

Camellia japonica hybrid ‘Koto-No-Kaori’. Spring flowering, fragrant pink flowers.

‘Nuccio’s Cameo’

Camellia japonica ‘Nuccio’s Cameo’. Fall/spring flowering, soft pink formal bloom.

Camellia japonica ‘Professor Sargent’

Camellia japonica ‘Professor Sargent’. Red 6′ – 8′. Broadleaf evergreen, peony form flowers. An outstanding evergreen shrub with deep, glossy green leaves and dense growth habit, ‘Professor Sargent’ camellia is a lovely, old fashioned plant well adapted to our Georgia climates. No southern garden should be without at least one camellia. ‘Professor Sargent’ camellia is an evergreen shrub to small tree which grows in an upright, rounded form. Camellia provides year round interest with dark glossy green leaves and smooth gray bark. In late winter to spring, rounded buds open to produce beautiful dark red, peony form flowers.

‘Ragland Supreme’

Camellia japonica ‘Reg Ragland Supreme’. Cherry red.

‘R.L. Wheeler’

Camellia japonica ‘R.L. Wheeler’. Spring flowering, salmon red semi double anemone. Large, solid salmon flowers can appear at the same time with salmon and white flowers on a single shrub.

‘Romany’

Camellia japonica ‘Romany’. Spring flowering, bright red formal bloom.

‘Rose Dawn’

Camellia japonica ‘Rose Dawn’. Spring flowering, deep rose pink, rose flowers.

‘Tama Vino’

Camellia japonica ‘Tama Vino’. Spring flowering, wine red white edges semi double bloom.

‘Tama-No-Ura’

Camellia japonica ‘Tama-no-ura’. Spring flowering, red white edges single bloom.

‘Victory White’

Camellia japonica ‘Victory White’ 8′ – 10′. Large, white, peony like flowers beginning during midwinter and continues into spring. Rounded, upright shrub.

‘Yuletide’

Camellia Sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ Red 8′ – 10′. Single red mid-season blooms. C. Sasanqua is similar to C. japonica but is often smaller and more refined. Sasanqua features smaller leaves. ‘Yuletide’ has a dense growth habit, evergreen deep green foliage and single bright red flowers with prominent yellow stames. The red flowers and eye catching, bright yellow stamens can last for 2 or more months from fall to winter. ‘Yuletide’ camellia is versatile, easy care shrub which is useful as a specimen plant, mixed border or foundation planting in your yard or as a container plant on a patio. Sasanqua camellia has more sun tolerance and thrives well in shade.

Other Varieties:

Fire Falls
Kramer’s Beauty
Arctic Rose
White Empress’
Dazzler – sasanqua semi-double, rose red
E. G. Waterhouse – japonica
Frank Brownlee – japonica red with white flecks double.
Hiryu – sasanqua semi-double bright pink to rosy red
Our Linda – sasanqua rose form double, medium pink
Red Bird – sasanqua rose form double, fuchsia
William Lanier Hunt – sasanqua dark orchid pink, peony flowers

Camellia varieties for sale in our plant nursery garden center are subject to change. B&B or container sizes.

by Barry Johnson

Can you prune my camellias mister? What a fateful question and to a man who has a big, small and extension chainsaws, not to mention motorised hedge trimmers and good olde hand ones as well. I can remember a landscaping job where most of the existing rubbish was removed leaving a gigantic example of Sasanqua ‘Hiryu’. This specimen consisted of about 5 naked branches reaching up about 4 metres with and 2 metres of top foliage growth. Highly aesthetic I don’t think.

With the philosophy of ‘Leave ’em Crying’ and true to form, out comes the chainsaw and the five branches are reduced to, totally naked stumps about 1.5 to 2 metres tall. This surgery resulted in the owner ringing every week for about 6 weeks (sometimes in tears) about what I’d done to her nostalgic camellia. Trust me madame, just make another gin and tonic and have another lie down. Everything will be alright. Landscaping tip: Make sure you’ve been fully paid up for your work before trying this.

Sure enough, the phone rings with a very excited client on the other end saying her Hiryu is bursting out with new growth all along its branches. That was about 3 years ago and you should see Happy Hiryu now, covered in foliage from head to toe, with blooms all over twice the size of the few miserable ones that used to be on the top that only passing birds could appreciate.

Was this reincarnation achieved by luck, accident or design? In the case of many garden services, it would be sheer luck. I my case, I trust that experience counts. Why did my drastic pruning technique succeed? In essence it was a combination of a number of factors; timing, soil reconditioning and hydration, feeding, mulching and aftercare.

In the case of the Hiryu example, I had fully landscaped this garden which started with soil rejuvenation. This entailed trying to get some new soil conditioning compost around the vicinity of the plant. Next, and particularly after about 8 years of drought conditions, I re-hydrated the entire garden with a wetting agent, in this case ‘Saturaid’. You should not be fooled by some recent rain that there is moisture any more than a few centimetres down and certainly not in the substrata. This protracted period of drought has left our soils generally hydrophobic ie. waterproof.

The aforesaid preparatory work done, the most important issue in pruning camellias is timing. Camellias only have one growth spurt per year and this commences just after their flowering cycle and in totality it may only equate to about multiple regrowths of about 20 to 30 centimetres. We need to capitalise on this fact. Late pruning will result in diminished regrowth and more chance of dieback and dead-end branch stubs. In the case of younger cultivars pruning may only entail shaping by ‘skirt’ pruning. Larger cultivars can be moderately or severely pruned, hopefully, not ‘butchered’ with the hand or chainsaw.

In the case of younger cultivars pruning may only entail shaping by ‘skirt’ pruning. Larger cultivars can be moderately or severely pruned, hopefully, not ‘butchered’ with the hand or chainsaw. So there you go, time to tally Ho! with the pruners and then I’ll have a gin and tonic for no reason at all, other than yum.

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