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Essential Pruning for Gardeners Taught by David Hurrion

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So many people are scared of pruning their plants, but it lies at the heart of keeping your garden looking its best

  • Making the right cuts to keep plants healthy

  • Pruning to promote strong stems

  • Maintaining compact and well-shaped plants

  • Getting more flowers and fruit from your garden


BBC Gardeners' World Magazine

If you want to get the best from your garden, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine’s Essential Pruning for Gardeners course, led by Associate Editor David Hurrion, is a must for anyone wanting to keep their plants in shape and get the best from your garden. It will show you the basic structure of trees, shrubs and fruit bushes, the best time to prune them and how to make the right cuts so you’ll master skills which no good gardener should be without. Lesson one looks at the stems, buds and leaves which make up plants and the fundamentals of where to cut them, as well as the tools you need for the job.

Having got these skills under your belt, you’ll apply them, in lesson two, to the hard pruning that’s essential for summer flowers, colourful winter stems and exotic foliage effects.

By lesson three you’ll be learning how to prune and cut back plants that flower in winter and spring, so they don’t outgrow their space and give the best blooms every year.

And the last lesson shows how you can take all the knowledge and skills you’ve learnt to apply to summer pruning which is essential for controlling vigorous plants, encouraging more flowers and giving you bumper crops of fruit.

The Curriculum

  • 1. Making the basic cuts

    Discover how woody plants make their seasonal growth, the way pruning can be used to both promote and control this, where to make those all-important basic cuts and the essential tools for the job. Identify the structure of word plant stems and the way in which they growth during the course of the season. Indicate the leaf and bud arrangements on both deciduous and evergreen woody plants. Define the term ‘node’ and the potential growth from this point. Discover the benefits of pruning woody plants. Understand how pruning at different times of year influences the chemicals in the stems and thus the type of growth made in response. Identify the correct position to make pruning cuts on the stems of a woody plant. Correctly align secateurs to buds and cut at a suitable distance from them. Identify the basic equipment for regular pruning and the different cutting mechanisms. Understand the importance of sharp secateurs and pruning equipment. Maintain clean equipment for plant health and efficient pruning.
  • 2. Hard pruning to promote strong growth

    Find out how to encourage vigorous growth and the type of plants that benefit from this treatment, discover the optimum time of year to undertake this pruning, and understand where and how to make the right cuts. Understand the growing situations where vigorous stem growth is required. Outline what is meant by ‘hard’ pruning. Identify trees and shrubs that require hard pruning to promote particular types of growth. Define the time of year (using knowledge from previous lesson) when such hard pruning is most effective. Understand the effects of hard pruning on deciduous and evergreen shrubs and how this effects timing. Identify a plant that has been previously hard pruned. Understand why winter- and spring-flowering shrubs and fruit would not be hard pruned, except for rejuvenation. Select a suitable point on the plant to prune to, observing any buds or nodes. Identify the type of tissues that are to be cut. Choose an appropriate pruning tool with which to make the cut. Make clean, neat cuts that leave the plant tidy and well balanced. Identify the regrowth made by the plant by midsummer. Distinguish between the different parts of the stem on a summer-flowering plant, a plant grown for foliage and one grown for winter stem colour. Understand the importance of thinning out subsequent re-growth. Identifying that this can also be used to rejuvenate old, overgrown shrubs of all types, and indicating the best time of year for this.
  • 3. Pruning out the oldest flowered stems

    Understand the benefits of pruning out the oldest flowered growth and identify which plants are pruned in this way, identify how far back to make the cuts and remove other types of growth as appropriate. Discover the different ages and types of growth that can be observed on an established winter- or spring-flowering shrub. Understand that flowers are produced on sideshoots produced from stems made in previous seasons. Relate this to cycles of growth and the regular pruning that can be carried out. Name different types of shrubs that produce flowers in this way. Identify the reasons why leaving such plants unpruned might effect health and productivity. Discover the simple rule of thumb that determines the right time of year to prune any winter- or spring-flowering shrub and bush or cane fruit. Choosing appropriate tools to prune out old woody branches down to the base. Discover why remaining stems can be pruned to benefit the shape and health of the plant. Understanding the importance of monitoring regrowth to thin out congested shoots.
  • 4. Controlling plant growth and increasing productivity

    Discover how summer pruning can be used for fruit and some ornamental plants, understand why it effects the way the plant grows and find out the additional benefits that can be gained from cutting and trimming plants at this time of year. Identify the current season’s growth and the elements of the stems that indicate this.
Trace through the main branches of the plant to identify the leading shoots. Observe the sideshoots that arise from the main stem. Identify flowering and fruit spurs by the arrangement of leaves and buds. Distinguish between the different states of growth by observation and touch. Use all of this to identify the point at which to prune back stems. Make pruning cuts at correct distance and angle above buds (as identified in lesson 1) to leave relevant shoots at appropriate length to promote different types of growth. Understand the importance of further thinning out excess shoots. Learn the benefits to health of certain plants from only pruning them in the summer. Discover how pruning back soft shoots can be beneficial to the health of plants in summer. Use this knowledge of summer pruning to inform the pruning of vigorous climbers, such as wisteria.

Meet your expert tutor

David has been growing plants for more than 40 years and worked in gardens and nurseries, growing on a range of different soils and in different regions of the UK. His extensive knowledge and practic...read more

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