Gardening questions and chat!

I say questions as I have a few but for the moment will start with one! I know we have some wonderful, experienced gardeners on here!

I’ve been trying my hand at a potager with varying degrees of success (mainly weed issues and poor watering on my part, to be honest I went to big too soon after a good first year!). We also have an established garden of bushes, trees etc. The last 2 years I did nothing between covid ennui and the death of my sister last spring. Feeling much better this year and keen to get things back in order!

So question 1. I’ve got a few of those bushes with the red berries on them (white flowers in summer). Every time I’ve gone to prune them they have had berries or flowers. As a result they are all now big and out of control! Didn’t want to take food from birds ect. The berries are now dying off. Is it a good time to cut them back? How hard can I be?

This was a while ago, as I said now all dying off!

They look a bit like a cotoneaster to me but some of our resident horticuluralists will know!

I think the normal wisdom is that you do those immediately after flowering but to be honest, I’d be tempted to do them now. You can prune back really hard generally as they are difficult to kill, but I think others will be more expert - like @JaneJones for example!


Looks like Cotoneaster to me…

try this link


Good - glad there’s two of us think that!


Off the top of my head… I’d cut back each branch, carefully, to the desired length.

Might have to be brutal as it’s had its own way a bit too long… but it’ll soon come back.

yep… do it now.

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Definitely Cotoneaster most likely lacteus , prune/hack away to your heart’s content just now.

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I think we’re all seeing it the same @Griffin36 so that has to be good news. I must admit that, try as I might, I’ve never managed to kill one (I don’t like them…)

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I butchered a hedge last year - years of neglect so a wide scruffy bunch of twigs with leaves at the tips - took it right back to the main branch throughout - looks like it needs a prune again now … I don’t think you can kill it based on how hard I went

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Thanks all! We visited friends last week and they had one as a small tree and it looked really nice, might see what I can do! I love them at Christmas as I do huge hanging decorations on all the barn and house doors and windows and they look lovely! So don’t want rid just hack back.

Definitely a Cotoneaster, normally tough as old boots, needs to ge managed or it will get scrawny, often used by councils and estated developers as they are cheap to buy, easy to plant and provide colour.

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Cutting back fairly hard at this time of year will promote a spurt of new growth that will bear a lot of flower in summer, and thus lots of berries next autumn / winter. Just follow the usual principal of first removing any obviously dead wood from the middle of the bush, then remove any damaged branches such as those that have been rubbing together in the wind, then stand back and decide what size and shape you wish it to be, and make it so. A bush of the size of yours will have a well established root system that will quickly re-grow new branches, so don’t worry if it looks a bit ‘stark’ by the time you have finished pruning.
Clearing away the detritus from around the base of the bush, and then applying a good depth of mulch all around it will help to keep the soil moist in dry periods and will also suppress weed growth.


Turns out I have ,4 not 3 of them! Just spent a couple of hours hacking! Looks much tidier! Thanks for all the reassurance I could go mad on them!!! I even found a flower bed I’d forgotten about hidden under one of them!

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OK next question, last year we lost a mirabelle, a red vine peach and a hazel all quite close to each other. The peach was really old, the others quite old and after so many such hot dry summers I thought maybe the just couldn’t cope (we are on limestone with very shallow earth). Sadly I’ve just spotted another, I think plum, not sure we ever had fruit from it, also dead. The bark seems to be falling off and thinking back I think the others also had similar. Any ideas?

That’s been some kind of bark beetle that’s done that damage, I have seen that on pine, beech, ash etc.

Could well be. And the weakened tree has then been invaded. Healthy trees manage to repel infestations.

Two of our apricots began to look very sick at the end of last summer - shed masses of leaves. Sometimes a wet spring can lead a tree to put on a lot of leaf that then cannot survive through a long dry summer.
Fortunately they are putting out new leaf just now, but as I too have parts of the garden where the soil is thin on top of sandstone I’m going to water them well in this part of the garden. (I shouldn’t have planted them there but at the time I didn’t appreciate what the land was like and they are too big now to move)
I think all the best gardeners work with their land and don’t try to fight it. Sounds like this is a part of the garden Tory where there’s no point in resisting the natural environment - find somewhere else in the garden if you can where you can plant fresh trees.

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Clearly it is some sort of insect damage from the track marks on the wood beneath the bark. Sadly it looks like the tree in your photos is beyond salvation. See if you can lift some of the remaining bark to find the culprit, which may be either a beetle or larvae. If you can get a couple into a jar, then perhaps your local garden center can identify it for you.
The most important thing is to identify the attacker, as once that is achieved then an appropriate spray remedy can be used. Knowing your enemy is essential to finding the best way to disrupt its life cycle, so if you have a number of other trees it may well be worth consulting an arboriculturist.

Is it the case that there is moss and lichen growing on the upper branches ? While not usually a problem in itself, such growth provides good habitat for insects that will subsequently attack the tree itself. Get rid of the moss and lichen with a tar-oil winter wash, sulphur solution, or Bordeaux Mixture, which will certainly help to keep the trees clean and pest free. Unfortunately it’s a bit late in the year to do it now as it should be done in the depths of winter before any leaf or flower buds start to appear.

Anything that is already dead or seriously infested should be cut and burnt to assist in reducing the spread to other trees. If thicker branches and trunk sections are not going to be burnt immediately, then they should be stored well away from other trees, and preferably sprayed with a general purpose insecticide to prevent the little blighters from multiplying.

Hack away, it will thrive and when the berries come again in autumn the blackcaps and blackbirds will be very happy.

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Me again! What is this annoying thing and how to get rid of it?

Not the irises obviously :rofl: