NOW IS the perfect time to tackle overgrown climbers. If you are wondering what to do with the ivy that has taken over the house or the honeysuckle that has got far to big for it's boots you can cut them back hard or renovate them by careful pruning (this technique is used to refresh old climbers that aren't up to standard). To begin this task you need to wait for the buds to break, this will allow you to determine which stems are alive and which are dead, unless you have a twiggy-stemmed, dense climber, such as clematis. As soon as buds swell, cut back the dead stems to a main, live stem and prune live stems back to their allotted space. Use sharp, clean secateurs to avoid spreading viral or bacterial diseases. For those of you who do not have a climber, but do have an open, empty space, why not plant one? Most climbers can be planted now. First dig a generous sized hole. Then add fertiliser to the base of the hole ; fish, blood and bone is a good choice ; and mix it into the soil well which will stop it ‘burning' the roots. Pull the plant from its pot and loosen the roots with the tips of your fingers ; be sure not to damage the roots in the process. Place the climber into the hole, making sure the crown of the plant is either just below or at ground level. Now fill the hole back in with the left over soil and firm it in using the heel of your foot. ;
- Prune out completely the three d's (dead, dying and diseased wood). Take weak stems down to ground level or weak shoots right back to a main stem. Use clean, sharp secateurs.
- Now prune stems that are outgrowing their allotted space, to a pair of healthy buds. Also cut out crossing or rubbing stems (above). Dense climbers can be trimmed with shears
- Tie any loose stems into the climber's framework with string or soft tie. Then mulch the base of the plant with bark or multipurpose compost to help it into healthy growth
CLEMATIS PRUNING GUIDE PRUNING CLEMATIS isn't as easy as the three steps above. Because many varieties of clematis flower at different times of the year they are divided into pruning groups. If you're not sure what clematis you have then don't prune it, wait until it flowers. Write down the month it blooms and then leave ; you may get a second flush. When you've established the details follow the right pruning group (see below). Group one These are clematis that flower before June on old wood and the evergreen varieties. Minimal pruning is required. Remove the three d's after flowering and then train new stems into the supports to fill any gaps. Group two These clematis produce two flushes of flowers ; one before June on old wood and one in August on new growth. Remove the three d's now (cut back to a strong pair of buds). Prune stems outgrowing their allotted space. Group three Clematis flowering after June on current year's growth belong to this group. Cut top growth down to a pair of healthy buds now. Leave any short stems that are 18in (45cm) above the base of the plant to grow on. ;