Plant Care–Feeding, Watering and Pruning
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Having completed the planting, the next thing to consider is the provision of support for any shrubs with weak or lax branches.
This will encourage roots to establish and become an anchor for the plant, especially in the case of tall subjects.
Mulching will help to conserve moisture and suppress the growth of weeds. Hoe carefully to keep down any that do appear, but don’t get too close to the plant, or too deep; this could damage any shallow roots. It is better to hand-weed near the plant itself. Renew the mulch annually.
Evergreen shrubs can be damaged by heavy falls of snow. If this is forecast the branches of valuable specimens can be tied with soft twine. After a downfall, shaking them to remove most of the snow should prevent the shrub from coming to any harm. Newly planted specimens of many shrubs will benefit from some form of winter protection.
Dead-heading — removing the faded— has a number of advantages. Not only does it keep the shrub tidy, it can, in some cases, often result in a further flush of flowers later in the year. Dead-heading also prevents seed formation.
There are a few instances where the flowers should be left until the following spring. Among these are hydrangeas, where the dead flowers help to protect the following year’s growth buds throughout the winter
Take care when removing the dead flowers of rhododendrons: snap them off with your finger and thumb, as it is easy to damage new growth.
This is extremely important with newly planted shrubs. Always water copiously, as a light sprinkling can do more harm than good, by encouraging roots to the surface of the. Plants on light soils will dry out quickly, so regular watering will be necessary in prolonged spells of dry weather. When the shrubs are well established, watering will not be required so often, especially if a mulch is used. One method to ensure new stock is well watered is to build a ridge of soil around each shrub and fill the resultant basin with water.
This is particularly useful in the case of shrubs with shallow roots, such as rhododendrons, which can suffer quickly in periods of drought.
This is important to produce healthy, vigorous plants of good shape, and at the same time will remove any stray, unwanted or weak, dead or diseased branches. This work should be carried out at different times throughout the year, depending on the subject (see appropriate plant section).
While there are exceptions, as a rough guide deciduous shrubs that flower early in the year are normally cut back immediately after flowering, and any unwanted branches removed.
Deciduous shrubs that flower in the summer and autumn are generally pruned before growth starts in the early spring. There are exceptions, however. The mock oranges (), for example, flower on wood produced the previous year. They should, therefore, receive attention immediately after flowering.
Evergreen shrubs are normally pruned (if necessary) in mid-spring.
In all cases you should prune back to healthy wood. All cuts must be clean, with a sloping cut just above an outward-facing bud. Collect up all prunings, and burn any that are diseased.
Invest in a good pair of two-bladed secateurs. For larger shrubs long-handled pruners are essential. Make sure any tools used are sharp and kept clean.
Many shrubs will benefit from a mulch of well-rotted compost or manure applied in late autumn or during the winter. As they grow they take valuable nutrients from the soil, so a light sprinkling of a well-balanced fertilizer lightly raked in is beneficial during the spring. Foliar feeding can also occasionally be used, but you should cease all feeding from late summer.