Maintaining growth for the future

  • Consider growth: Oleander butchering, a widespread practice, creates a crew-cut effect (Photograph submitted)

    Consider growth: Oleander butchering, a widespread practice, creates a crew-cut effect (Photograph submitted)


Bermuda’s climate is unpredictable. Especially in the summer, rainfall is at the top of a list of things gardens need and with it comes new growth which can be rampant.

Correct pruning, rather than hacking, is what’s required to protect the plant from being decimated into a box or ball and causing untold damage to its potential framework of branches.

This is especially so with trees and large shrubs. In the case of the latter, it can prevent flowers from blooming.

Abundant growth comes when there is an excessive amount of rain in the summer. This increases the infrastructure of plants, which opens them up to growth damage during hurricanes and gales and can have a long-term effect on their potential branch structure.

Understanding the principles of pruning will help reduce the impact on future growth.

Except for ground covers such as lantana, pentas, salvia and similar, pruning is required three times a year at most, dependent on summer growth.

Continuous pruning does nothing for the plant in appearance; it actually reduces the flowering capacity by removing as-yet-unseen bud growth.

By their very nature, plants have their own natural growth habit, be it columnar, upright, round, boxed or triangular; which dictates to what degree they should be pruned.

I can never understand why a machete is the ‘weapon’ of choice for pruning/hacking on any and all species.

A hibiscus has a different outline than an oleander, which differs in outline from an aralia; in other words, there is no single fix for all species.

Oleander butchering is widespread and I am surprised that property owners accept the practice so readily.

What in the morning is a fully foliaged floriferous specimen has been reduced to a series of upright leafless sticks all the same height and devoid of character, shape and flower by late afternoon.

Again using the oleander as an example, the butchering has not taken into consideration the existing growth — be it new or old.

What I refer to as tiered pruning, when done correctly, generates growth from all levels. New growth is usually generated from 6” to 9” below the cut.

It is obvious to see why, with the butchering approach, the resultant growth creates a “crew-cut” effect.

If the hedge has been hacked back to a uniform 12ft, then growth will be predominantly at the upper area initially, with little at the lower level.

The tiered method involves pruning “old” branches to a lower level, which generates growth from that level.

Other branches are then pruned back to different heights, allowing a quick fill-in when growth develops.

Aralia and plants with similar growth habits can be pruned the same way, but with the understanding of the “normal” outline of the plant to keep it upright in habit.

Hibiscus tend to be upright, spreading and very floriferous, which is their designated beauty; when in full bloom they are magnificent.

To attain a good flowering specimen, thin out old heavy growth and weak, crossing or dead branches whilst keeping the outline of the plant.

Carissa is usually found as a varietal form. I have found that many of the hybrids have a tendency to revert to their “wild” parentage habit, developing large thorns, heavier stems and larger leaves.

To keep the hybrid to its cultivated form requires constant removal of the reverted growth, which produces smaller leaves, stems and thorns. Flowering should continue its normal habit.

Review each plant prior to pruning, note its characteristics and then prune with these in mind.

The end product should resemble the same, but in a more open and reduced size.

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Published Sep 19, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 19, 2018 at 8:06 am)

Maintaining growth for the future

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