Pruning flowering shrubs: the Summer Solstice

One of the basic rules of thumb for pruning flowering shrubs (in the UK anyway) ties in with the Summer Solstice. For plants that have been flowering before the Solstice (which is around about 21st June) the rule of thumb is to prune them as soon as they’ve finished flowering. For those plants that haven’t bloomed by the Solstice, you leave the pruning until the following spring.

The reasoning for this is that early bloomers set their buds, including those which will develop into flowers, during the late summer/autumn. So, if you pruned too late (or too early – before they’ve flowered) you’d lose those buds holding the would-be flowers.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus): the sweet scented flowers bloom before the Summer Solstice, so pruning is done as soon as the flowers have finished. The caveat in this case is that it's best to take out whole branches, not just snip off the flower heads, to encourage vigorous new young growth.
Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius): the sweet scented flowers bloom before the Summer Solstice, so pruning is done as soon as the flowers have finished.

Having said that, I know that lots of people are scornful of simple rules of thumb. I know there are always exceptions to rules and caveats to complicate things, but I think a simple guideline is always a useful starting point.

When I first began gardening for other people (as opposed to my lackadaisical own gardening) I was often angst-ridden: worrying how to prune, when to prune, how to propagate and where to plant… Without some rules of thumb I’d have been paralysed into inaction.

As with all ‘rules’, do remember they’re “for the guidance of wise men and the stricture of fools”*: if you want or need to break the rules, you sometime just have to do it!

*One of my teachers said that quote in a lesson a long time ago. A quick Google shows that it’s actually a bit of a misquote of something attributed to Douglas Bader – an RAF WWII pilot.

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3 thoughts on “Pruning flowering shrubs: the Summer Solstice”

  1. I knew that one πŸ˜€ A life and face saver… πŸ˜‰
    But there is another thing I have to reckon with in my little jungle… Being a bit of a nursery for some birds, I have to wait with any action till al the kids are up and flying without the parents organizing their own Pearl Harbour… And that’s a bit later, end june usually… πŸ™‚

    1. That’s the same for me too and an important point. I keep bumping into young birds, just out of the nest, but not able to fly yet and they just sit so quietly on their branch, watching the world and hoping nobody notices them (or prunes their tree!)

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