Taming Teenage Shrubs
A Hyperactive Hypericum
I'm not very good with shrubs. There's no excuse, either - I've got lots of good books about them. I know all the rules - prune them immediately after flowering, mulch them, don't be seduced into planting them just for their flowers.
I've drooled over the many photos of well planted shrub and mixed borders in my garden books. How difficult can it be to have my own borders looking like that?
New shrubs are a bit like little children - cute and cuddly, full of promises. I never realised just how quickly shrubs grow. During my first years as a country gardener I was simply incredibly grateful that the shrubs I shifted, propagated and planted survived my inexperience.
Toddler Viburnum Tinuses were repositioned, knee-high Pittosporum trees and Hebes were nurtured as they formed inexpensive backbones of the new garden beds. I couldn't believe how healthy they were - Gosh wasn't I a good plant mother? Hypericum and Choisya were extremely obliging, and their suckering offspring were potted up ready to fill in the gaps in the next garden bed planned.
A Harassed Hebe
Then I started rescuing Rosemary and Lavender (I am a compulsive rescuer) from the bargain bin at the local nursery, feeling very smug. These cheap treasures would also fill in the big spaces, and provide fragrance, colour, and a touch of the Mediterranean. I also took in unwanted camellias. I discovered that Lavatera Barnsley and Buddleias were incredibly easy to propagate. The Moosey Refuge for Young Shrubs Wanting an Extra Good Start in Life became packed with shrublings.
One of the great survivors of the Moosey secateurs
It's taken me a few years to realise where I went wrong. I now know better. Why didn't I notice the easy-to-propagate shrubs were growing too big too quickly? Why wasn't I more ruthless? Why didn't I take more notice of their growth styles and habits?
A Well Behaved Shrub
All the shrubs which I so proudly practiced my plant parenting skills on have now turned into oversized teenagers. Like teenagers they lounge around my garden, spreading out scruffy arms and legs, taking light from smaller and much nicer plants around them, crowding out the spring bulbs and hostas.
Like teenagers they have all developed into gross feeders, they are unsubtle and it's time I threw most of them out (parents of teenagers will sympathise).
I have been forced finally into a rationalised pruning programme. I've adopted a new tough-love attitude. Hebes - beware! Pittosporums, look out! Even you Lavenders, trying to confuse me off by flowering at all times of the year, I'm going to get you! I've bought six pairs of cheap red secateurs, and I cannot possibly lose all of them.
I promise to leave no shrub unpruned. Mixed borders, beware of Moosey the Merciless, Official Tamer of Unruly Teenage Shrubs.