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Time to Trim the Box

May 10, 2015


After a few days away I’ve returned to find the parterres (Buxus suffruticosa) growing a pace with the fresh lime-green leaves shriller than ever. All the box plants need a trim but at least they seem to be in good health after the box blight scare.

Below is a jug of scented lilac Syringa vulgaris var. Alba  plus the pale yellow flowers of Tellima grandiflora, white Vinca minor ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and Tulip ‘White Triumphator’ .


My lilac shrub planted six years ago and growing well has rarely flowered -a few blooms on three occasions. I guess it’s because I’ve paid too little attention to the maintenance rules but now that it’s about 8 ft tall this is what needs to happen:

As soon  as the flowers fade is the time to prune because this is just before the lilac sets new flower buds. Start by taking out any dead or diseased stems and aim  for a lilac that has 8-12 stems of varying ages. You are aiming to have lots of branches some of which will flower next year some year two and others year three.  Incidentally if you give an old bush a really radical prune all over then you will wait for three years before you see any flowers.  Each stem should be only  1-2″ in diameter-anything fatter needs to be cut out.

The branches on my lilac are still  less than 2″ diameter and it’s a pretty shape so nothing too radical is needed.  So today I picked all the flowering stems (there were only five) cutting them back to a main branch. Then I’ve thinned other branches that were crossing over each other. This is the method I’ll stick to from now on because picking the flowers will ensure the appropriate pruning routine and should guarantee flowers emerging every year on different branches.

And below are some faded hellebore flowers with Tulip ‘Queen of the Night’ rescued from heavy rain and gale-force winds at the beginning of last week.


Both the runner beans and the climbing Borlotto Lingua di Fuoco  sown three weeks ago have failed to germinate. These were both three year old stock as it were (found in my seed storage box) so probably not worth having another go. I’ll buy a fresh supply of borlotto beans because I like that you can leave the papery pods to dry out until late summer with little or no attention.  And I’ll sow more of the purple climbing French beans that germinated fast and are now planted in the ground on the allotment.


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