If your garden is at all like mine, it has likely passed one “peak of perfection” (perfection being a relative concept, meaning different things to each gardener) and is now in a bit of a holding pattern, thanks to the heat. The next peak of perfection is building, with its arrival expected when the gardener is on vacation in another location!
You can help the next peak look even better than the previous one with a bit of pruning right now. Roses are perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of the pruners, removing the spent blossoms of the previous flush of blooms in such a way that it allows another set of buds to form quickly. Do this by cutting at a point down the stem below the spent blossoms where a set of five, not three, leaflets come off the stem. This location should be at a spot where the new growth will be directed out away from the centre of the bush. Don’t forget to fertilize with a good rose food after pruning to promote healthy growth and new flowers.
You’ll get far more bloom out of flowering shrubs like spirea and potentilla if you prune lightly to remove the finished flower heads. Most varieties will respond quickly with fresh new growth, and another full set of blooms to take you into the autumn.
Shrubs that flowered earlier in spring like forsythia, Weigela, philadelphus and spring-blooming viburnum can be still be pruned now, if you didn’t do so right after they finished flowering. You might find less bloom on them next year however, because they won’t have as much time to generate new flowering wood for next spring.
Some gardeners with grapes like to remove some of the foliage in summer to allow more sunlight to flow into the centre and help to ripen the fruit. It also helps to promote air circulation through the plants, reducing the risk of mildew. Also, don’t forget to remove the canes from summer bearing raspberries after the harvest is complete. Fortunately this does not have to be done right away, because pruning thorny raspberries on a hot summer day is not an experience anyone enjoys.
It’s a bit late to prune evergreen hedges, and shrubs like juniper, mugo pines and other ornamental conifers, because they won’t have much of an opportunity to recover from the pruning cuts before they begin to enter dormancy later in the fall. Make a note to do it earlier in the summer next year.
Finally, don’t forget the all-important task of deadheading; removing spent blooms from annuals and perennials. In the case of annuals deadheading is vital because it prevents the plants from setting seed and shutting down the blooming for the season. With many perennials, especially the newer varieties that have been introduced in recent years, pruning usually encourages another flush of bloom later in the season, which is something every hard-working gardener deserves.
At some point you’ll be able to clean the accumulated sap off the blades of your pruners, spray some WD-40 on them and put them away for the winter. We’re not there yet however, so keep them handy as you make your daily stroll through your garden.