Shrubs have been looking fantastic in my garden this year. When we’re all so busy it’s tempting to give them their heads and let them romp away. Don’t! They really do need to be kept in hand so that they’ll stay looking fabulous into the future.

Trim and clip pyracantha

Red and orange pyracantha on a white-painted wall near Stockbridge, Hampshire. Trim

Red and orange pyracantha on a white-painted wall near Stockbridge, Hampshire.
© Jonathan Billinger and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence.

Pyracantha has to be pruned to keep it under control and producing good looking flowers and berries. After flowering, in late summer, is the best time.

Three important points to bear in mind

  1. Wear a long-sleeved jacket and strong, perhaps gauntlet, gloves. The thorns are vicious.
  2. Pyracantha flowers (and berries) mostly on shoots produced the previous year. These shoots will look more ‘woody’ than this year’s growth. If you prune out these ‘woody’ shoots you won’t have any flowers or berries!
  3. If you snip off flowers … then there won’t be any berries later.

Here’s an outline of what to do:

  • With free-standing shrubs, just remove unwanted, damaged or diseased shoots.
  • With wall-trained pyracantha, the idea is to prune in order to make the berries more visible and to keep the plants in shape. In late summer, shorten all side shoots coming from the main framework branches to just short of the clusters of berries (usually about two to three leaves from the base of the side shoot).
  • With pyracantha hedges, trim them twice or three times between spring and the end of summer, retaining as many berries as possible.

Trim and clip lavender

garden hedges

Box hedges around lavender beds at Tyntesfield. Thanks to Derek Harper for this image.

If you didn’t harvest lavender for drying in June and your lavender has finished flowering, then it’s time to cut it back.

  • For ‘English’ lavender (L. angustifolia) such as Hidcote, that’s around mid-August.
  • For intermedia lavenders, such as the Grosso I have in my front garden – just under the bedroom window – that’s early September. It’s important to be quite severe with these.
  • And for others, such as French lavender and others with ‘ears’ on the flowers, it’s when the plants have finished flowering.

Trim and clip rosemary

I’m trying to grow a rosemary hedge by my front gate where there is currently one enormous plant. I’m going to cut this one back by a third and make sure I don’t cut into the woody part. The other rosemary bushes which are in the back garden (all grown from cuttings taken by my mother) are just going to be clipped to look neat and to keep them bushy.

Trim and clip santolina

Santolina is also known as cotton lavender but it’s no relation to the lavender we’ve just been talking about. Santolina has mounded aromatic silver-grey foliage and button-like yellow flowers in late summer, and is great as edging. It loves sun-baked places and can grow quickly to 60cm (2ft) high. At this height it can be rather straggly but you can easily keep it in hand by trimming.

If you like the flowers:

  • trim back after the flowers have died to prevent plant becoming leggy
  • trim in autumn or early spring to keep a neat shape and dense foliage.

If you don’t want the flowers:

  • prune in spring and also in mid-summer.
If it's become straggly:
  • cut back hard in spring -  you can cut into the old wood but that will mean no flowers that summer.

These are pleasant jobs for warm weather. Enjoy being out in the fresh air!