Following storms Aileen and Brian sandwiched by Hurricane Ophelia that removed a lot of leaf there remains some wonderful autumn colours around at the moment however with colder weather and darker nights upon us with change of clocks this weekend we will find the remaining leaf on trees and shrubs will start to lose the remaining foliage and now is the time to think about carrying out some winter pruning.

When it comes to winter pruning unfortunately it is not a one size fits al. some shrubs can be cut back quite harshly and for others this would influence the success of flowering next year so you may need to do some more research in to the type of shrub you have in the garden before starting any cutting back.

All shrubs including evergreens need some trimming back to remove excessive growth shoots and damaged parts of the plant however shrubs that lose their leaves known as deciduous shrubs require what we call formative pruning to keep the original growth shape of the shrub.

Pruning new young shrubs helps to form a strong growth and keep the overall shape. Common garden shrubs such as Berberis, cotoneaster, Cornus dogwood, fuchsia are all types of shrubs that can be cut back almost to the base of the plant. Check if your shrub has winter coloured stems and if it does you perhaps want to leave enough of the stem to appreciate the colour over the winter months but still prune enough to encourage fresh growth next year.

It is important to cut your shrubs with clean sharp secateurs or loppers as damage to the shrubs stem allows disease to enter the shrub and cause growth problems forcing you to remove it from the garden. It is also important when cutting the stem to slope the cut at an angle away from the plant to avoid water sitting for periods of time that again could cause disease to enter the plant.

The cut should be six to seven millimetres above a bud to avoid having long stems of no growth. If once you have checked your shrub and hard pruning is not an option then you will require to light prune and once again cut to a bud but obviously not as far down the stem as hardier types. This is also a good time to put down some bark and remove any strong rooted weeds or grasses that could grow again next year and compete with shrubs.

You want your winter pruning to be complete by end of February at the latest as although we may still be experiencing winter the shrub will be storing energy in all parts of the plant waiting for spring to arrive. It is better if the plant only spend its energy on a small plant over winter and you will be rewarded with fresh formative growth in to the spring and summer It is also a good time to prune roses but once again it is important to know the type of rose you have and what type of pruning is appropriate. Shrub roses can be treated in similar way to shrubs mentioned above and can be pruned vigorously to allow for new growth next year.

Paul Brannan