March is nearly through and Easter just round the corner… gosh it’s zipping past this year! I’ve nearly ordered my chocolate eggs.

If you haven’t done so prune hard all of the following shrubs and a few climbers:

Buddleja davidii (the butterfly bush)
Hydrangea paniculata
Caryopteris ‘Kew Blue’
Mid to late summer flowering clematis such as C. viticella, C. jackmanii and C. tangutica
Spiraea japonica
Sambucus (elderberries)
Salix (willow)
Cornus alba (dogwood)

March pruningWhen I say hard prune, I mean cut all of last year’s growth to just in front of the old stumps. For the likes of the butterfly bush and elderberries, this could be extended further by cutting down to stumps around 60-90cm (2-3ft). This will open up the plant and allow greater air flow through, meaning less disease and possible pests.

For the coloured stems of willows and dogwoods, cut down growth to one bud in front of the old stems. You could keep the pruning to weave through any supports you’re creating or you could even use them as hardwood cuttings. Go to https://www.rhs.org.uk/ or type into any search engine the word ‘hardwood’ followed by ‘RHS’ and this will whisk you straight to the correct page. A cheap and easy method ideal for extending plant numbers… and it’s free!

With the summer clematis listed above, cut last year’s growth down to 1-2 pairs of opposite growth buds. This is hard pruning but ideal for these types as they flower on new growth.

Once pruning has been completed apply a general purpose feed such as Fish, Blood and Bone or Vitax Q4 at a rate of 35-50g/sqm., which equates to a good handful of feed. Lightly rake in and then apply a thick, well rotted layer of organic matter to a depth of 10cm (4″). This will keep the ground moist, weed free and even add fertility at sound point to the soil.

Good luck with this coming month. Keep up with any weeding and watch out for pest and diseases.

For any gardening tips why not contact Tom Cole, Senior Horticultural Lecturer, Writtle College, Chelmsford, CM1 3RR by post (including a SAE) or by email at tom.cole@writtle.ac.uk


Ken Crowther has returned to Wilkin & Sons at Tiptree where he met Farm Manager Andrey Ivanov on the fruit farm in the new growing area. The state of the art poly tunnel is currently being used to grow this season’s strawberries using a revolutionary new system which is the first in the UK.


The weather conditions in Essex make it an ideal place to raise plants from seed. On their 300 acre farm in Coggeshall Kings Seeds have been following a production process which has been in place for over 100 years. Ken Crowther meet Andrew Tokely on the Kings Seeds plot to find out more.