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Give congested trees and shrubs a new lease of life with some judicious pruning during their winter dormancy

The winter months, when deciduous shrubs are dormant, present the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate old or congested specimens and give them a new lease of life. Hard pruning stimulates fresh new growth next season, but will come at the expense of flowers for a year or two. Leave evergreen pruning until spring.

How to do it…

• Total rejuvenation Vigorous shrubs such as buddleia and cotinus can be rejuvenated in one go. This means all the stems can be cut down to 10-20cm (4-8in) of the ground. They’ll sprout again in spring.
• Staggered pruning Most shrubs benefit from a more staggered pruning carried out over three years to reduce the stress. In the first year, remove no more than a third of the branches. Start by cutting off dead, diseased and damaged stems back to ground level, and remove any that are crossing over other branches. These crossing stems can rub, opening up wounds where disease can enter. Cut back additional branches until a third of the plant has been pruned back.
In the second year cut back or shorten another third of the branches, then the following year remove the remaining third so the whole plant is rejuvenated.
l Feed plants afterwards With both the total rejuvenation and staggered pruning methods, give plants a general-purpose feed in spring and mulch with a generous layer of well-rotted compost to help them recover from the pruning and grow away healthily.

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