Plant new shrubs, watering them well until they are established. Evergreens can be planted almost all year but keep them moist at the roots. If you restrict lilac to a single trunk, you should get a good show of flowers. Mulch them at the base with lawn cuttings, to restrict suckers. Carry out light pruning of shrubs as they finish flowering, removing dead flower heads and weak shoots. Clip bay trees into shape now.
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Self-seeding sycamore and other small trees will probably be driving you mad by now. Pull these out while there are still only two leaves - once past this point they become harder to remove and you'll need a trowel. Divide or thin overgrown bamboo clumps. You can cut out the older canes and take some of the smaller leaves off the canes, to open the clump up. Layer clematis shoots in pots, pinning them to the surface. Leave for up to a year when rooted, before separating from the main plant. Softwood cuttings of shrubs such as cotoneaster and pyracanthus can be taken now. Make a straight cut below a joint and place the cuttings in sandy soil in an open cold frame. Water during dry weather and when rooted, pot on into 3in. pots, which should be left in the cold frame over winter. Take heel cuttings of magnolia and place in cold frame for at least a year. Deciduous shrubs which have finished flowering can be pruned to encourage new growth for next year. Brooms should be cut back hard once they have finished flowering, taking care not to cut into the woody stems. Laburnum seeds are poisonous to pond fish and flower heads should be cut back as soon as they have finished flowering.
Passion flowers and wisteria shoots can be layered in the open soil and potted on when good root systems have formed. They can be grown on in pots for a year and planted out in spring to their final positions. Buddleia cuttings can be planted in a cold frame to root as can a range of other shrubs such as cistus, clematis, cotoneaster, mahonia, euonymus, spirea and viburnum. Established wisteria should be pruned after the flowers have faded. To encourage lateral spurs which produce flowers, you need to spur-prune the young shoots. Cut laterals and side-shoots to 6in. of main stems, cutting above a bud. This should leave 5-6 buds. Keep tying in the new lateral growth, horizontally.
This is the peak season for taking cuttings of many shrubs. Six inch cuttings should be taken from this year’s growth and pushed singly into pots of good compost and given the protection of a cold frame which should be kept open as often as possible but closed when the weather is cold or windy. The cuttings will root quite readily over winter and be ready for planting out into their flowering positions in late spring the following year. Suitable plants are: Buddleia, Fuchsia, Ilex, Hebe, Pieris and many others – if in doubt give it a go what have you got to loose?
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Prepare the ground for new shrubs, digging in plenty of compost or manure. Towards the end of the month, evergreens can be planted, preferably when rain is forecast. Stake as necessary and keep well watered in dry weather. Spraying the foliage will help evergreens to retain their leaves. Hardwood and half-ripe cuttings can be taken from shrubs such as berberis, pyracanthus and potentilla. Take 9in. cuttings with a heel and place in sandy soil in a cold frame, watering them well. Hardy cuttings can be planted out in Spring, with others left in the cold frame until May or June when risk of frost has passed.
Towards the end of the month plant new trees and shrubs - it is best to wait for calm weather and for a time when it is not too cold and the ground is not waterlogged. It is essential that tall trees and shrubs are well staked to avoid the plant being rocked in the wind which has the effect of breaking off any new root growth and will probably lead to the plant dying. This is also the best time of year to take cuttings from almost any of your shrubs - take cuttings of this year's growth between six and twelve inches, dip the cut end in a rooting compound and plunge the cutting up to half its length in potting compost and sit it in the cold frame. Open the cold frame in mild weather and make sure the compost is kept damp but not too wet. By late spring next year the cuttings should be well rooted and new growth starting. Grow on in the pots until late summer when they can be planted out into their final positions.
Trees and shrubs can still be planted if the weather remains good. Tender plants will benefit from a windbreak screen which you could make out of stout polythene. Fleece may be necessary to protect from frosts. Hardwood cuttings of ivy, elaeagnus and willow can be taken and inserted into the ground or cold frame. They will be ready for transplanting in Spring. Heel cuttings of winter jasmine can be taken and inserted in a cold frame.
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If the weather is favourable you can still plant deciduous trees and shrubs. Remember that to avoid wind damage which will weaken the roots you need to firm the soil around the base of the trees or plants. After heavy frost, check the base of the plants and firm in the soil where necessary. Collect fallen leaves for the compost bin - leaf-mould is invaluable in Spring. Hydrangeas and fuchsias in tubs should be brought into the greenhouse unless you live in a mild area.
New plants which cannot be planted due to frozen ground can be stored in a frost free shed with some protection provided to the roots - don't forget they're in there! Ginkgo biloba and Zelkova are well worth growing from seed and these can be sown under glass or in a propagator. Prune dead and diseased tree and shrub branches. Wisteria should be cut back to within 3 inches of the old wood unless you want to increase the size of the plant.
Deciduous trees and shrubs can continue to be planted as the weather and soil conditions permit. Look for any sign of movement of newly planted trees and shrubs due to the wind and tread them in again firmly. Think about pruning trees to give a good open shape in the middle by pruning out inward growing branches.
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Trees, shrubs and climbers should be planted out in good weather, top-dressing with manure or compost. Plants such as amelanchier and syringa can be propagated by layering. Sink a pot near the parent plant and gently peg a shoot into the top of the pot. Once it has shown signs of growing, sever it from the parent plant. Prune any damaged shrubs, removing dead or damaged wood. Thin old wood from berberis and hedera. Fuchsia and lavatera need to be cut back to live wood. Honeysuckle should be pruned lightly once it has finished flowering. Seeds of trees and shrubs can be sown in cold frames or a cold greenhouse. Prick them out into pots and keep in a cold frame until the autumn if possible. Water them well in dry weather.
Evergreen shrubs can be planted during showery weather. Pot-grown wall shrubs should also be planted. If the weather is dry, water newly-planted trees and shrubs. Mulch with lawn mowings or compost. Layer shoots of Hydrangea in a pot of peaty soil, pegging a shoot down. Once rooted, sever from the parent plant. Prune trees and shrubs once they have finished flowering. Forsythia can be cut back to within two buds of the old growth; any stems which have rooted themselves can be severed and replanted. Prune Buddleia and Hydrangea hard as these flower on the growth of the current season. Prune straggly lavender and Magnolia and remove any weak shoots on other trees and shrubs.
Gardening information hints and tips on how to get the best from the trees and shrubs in your garden including pruning, mulching, propagation and general care advice.