I like to take the heavy loppers to something that needs such attention, when I am in the mood. Rarely and infrequently, Attila gets me riled by an unjust or inopportune observation about the quality of my housekeeping or the amount of time spent on living things rather than laundry. I accept that I have choices; one will result in an arresting display, the other will get me busted. I can either chop bits off my husband, or take radical action in the garden.
Anything that flowers on new growth is fair game. Pruning will stimulate shoots which will bear the blooms or new foliage that I want. If I have a huge head of steam following a particularly reckless remark, I take the pruning saw to the Buddleia lindleyana or the elderberry (Sambucus “Black Lace”), both of which may be chastised like an errant husband for the same reason, i.e. with a view to ensuring better behaviour in the future. You may cut down hard, if past neglect has resulted in an overgrown shrub. Leave on two clumps of leaf on each trunk, which will give you a second chance should a late frost kill the top-most. Brutality of this type will make the bush expend a lot of energy which you should encourage with a make-up gift of fertilizer or compost mulch.
Old lady - dessert cherry in bloom
I find that being lashed in the chops with deliberate malice by some bush that should know better stimulates me into slashing more fiercely. Don’t squander this feeling; I use it to chop at the blackberry (Rubus “Oregon Thornless”). Last years’ growth must be cut to the ground and new stems need tying onto their trellis, hopefully in order to support the many kilograms of fruit that it will bear in autumn. If you have a variety which wears prickles either don gloves in a futile attempt to preserve your hide or use the rising fury to castigate something else.
Cynara cardunculus (artichoke) & Euphorbia
Got a clematis? If it flowers before June, don’t prune. Ergo, if it blooms on the previous year’s growth, you’ll end up with the blossom bearing sprigs in the wheelbarrow and terse words of recrimination from your non-gardening partner. If your specimen flowers on the current year’s growth i.e. June onwards, cut it back hard. If in doubt, trim it immediately after flowering, then at least you don’t get a lot of earache from any other, about how much better they would have done the job.
Erythronium (dog's tooth violet)
If you are feeling calmer now, you may want to tackle that large leafed hydrangea which is interfering with passing aircraft. If you don’t mind sacrificing this year’s show, you can cut out a few old stems to encourage new shoots, otherwise restrict yourself to taking off dead heads. This is a job for happy, laid back gardeners who want to potter about their plot, making a few tiny snips to render something tidy. Don’t start the task if you would prefer to take your secateurs to another human being who has rattled your cage. If someone has said something reprehensible and utterly out of order, you are entitled to speedy, profuse and heartfelt apologies. My technique also works well on importunate double glazing salesmen and doorstep purveyors of eccentric religion. Just show them the chainsaw.