Pruning herbs

by Jekka McVicar

It's always been my ritual, in the first week of March, to start the long-awaited pruning of overwintered herb shrubs and trees.

Myrtle flowers - Myrtus communisIt's always been my ritual, in the first week of March, to start the long-awaited pruning of overwintered herb shrubs and trees. However, a word of warning for those who live in the north - the long range forecast is for another cold snap, possibly with snow. My advice would be to hold off until mid-March.

I've just finished pruning the myrtles. Myrtle is a wonderful herb, not only for the beauty of the flowers, but also for the amazing aromas and flavours it creates in the kitchen. You can't go wrong cutting back this herb - it shoots off old wood, and is tolerant of hard pruning.

Two bay trees, grown as standardsI then moved on to the bay trees. I have two standard bay trees, both more than 20 years old. They each take a day and a half to have a full haircut. I know it removes the flowers, but they need to be at their best for the Chelsea Flower Show. For that reason I don't want them to use their energy producing flowers at the expense of lush green leaves.

South African wild rosemary - Eriocephalus africanusAnd finally I tackled Eric, the name we give the South African wild rosemary, Eriocephalus africanus. It's a wonderful plant, which starts flowering in November right up until March. These flowers are followed by amazing fluffy seed-pods which look great in the garden but untidy on a show plant. So we prune the flowers and seed-pods and cut the plant back to regain its shape and enhance its texture in time for May. Eriocephalus is not only used in South Africa as we would use Rosmarinus officinalis, but is also a beneficial medicinal herb with anti-spasmodic properties. It is used to combat stomach ache and is currently being researched as a treatment for heart disease.

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Gardeners' World Web User 13/03/2008 at 08:27

when is it time to prune camelias

Gardeners' World Web User 22/03/2008 at 09:27

Have just bought a jasmine for the garden am a bit confused just what is chalk free water

Gardeners' World Web User 30/03/2008 at 14:25

What a beautiful picture of the myrtle. I never realised how pretty they were.

Gardeners' World Web User 24/08/2008 at 12:03

I am a beginner regarding herbs in the garden, I have a large selection of herbs. After the herbs flower at what time do i prune, where on the plant do I cut back. What do I do to bring in the herbs for the winter.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:31

The best place for herbs? by the back door - I just step outside and trail my hands over them and soak up the heady scent of rosemary, mint and thyme. The cat of course heads straight for her patch of cat mint!