Keeping control of your cistus

Cistus creticus
Cistus creticus

Last year I wrote about keeping things in my garden ‘in balance’ by cutting back the lush foliage of my border plants at this time.  With hindsight – looking at pictures I took – it is clear that many of my plants were hugely over-enthusiastic – they looked as though they had been fed on steroids.

I put this down to the fact that it was their first proper season in new homes and they were luxuriating in the newly muck-and-compost-enriched soil (that was originally exhausted and clay-ey).

They now look  better – sturdy, nicely filled-out and flowering well, aided, (in currently tumbling rain ) by all the invisible corsetry that I put in place to hold them up.  A year later and all that original effort  and soil improvement is showing with a profusion of flowers and growth in the newer shrubs, and even the  old duchesses that were here –  the tree paeonies and viburnums and so on  as well as the the large established trees  – seem to have put on extra weight.

The good thing about this is that now all my additions to this garden, packed the way I like things,  look as though they have been here for ever, and I am already eyeing up the pruning jobs I am going to have to do on a regular basis – of shrubs that are now flowering and particularly of the fast-growing cistuses that will largely finished their blowsy floral performance by early July.

Many gardeners think that you can’t cut cistuses back, and that they inevitably get gaunt and ugly and need to be replaced after three or so years.  Although this may be true of some of the biggest, sticky and aromatic leafed ones such as Cistus ladinifer, I have found this to be absolutely not the case, thank  goodness, with the varieties I grow.

In previous gardens all of mine have gone under the knife, as it were,  each July and have continued to come up smiling for years.  Cistus purpureus and Cistus ‘Alan Fradd’ are both cut back by a couple of feet or more all over  (each branch cut to just above a pair of young shoots)  and are scoured for dead or superfluous skinny branches low down which are a cut right out, just to tidy them up.

Smaller Cistus corbariensis gets stern treatment along the same lines, as do Cistus x scanbergii (the first to finish flowering) and Cistus creticus (my favourite, a dusk-luminous soft magenta with a deep yellow ‘eye’, lovely when grown grown near a purple-leafed sage and lavender, and even that new Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist…)

Who would have thought a small garden like mine could have so many cistuses in it?  Well it wouldn’t if I didn’t keep them all well-groomed, yet still able to flower their socks off, and of course the timing of the Big Prune (immediately after they have flowered) is crucial.  The smaller the garden the more vital it is to understand when and how to prune shrubs.

Lah di dah.  Over and out.


5 thoughts on “Keeping control of your cistus

  1. Thanks for your advice about pruning cistus as everything else I’ve read seemed to advise against it. Going to have a bash this afternoon…

    1. Hi, I’ve a Cistus (cyprius I think) which has got totally out of control…I want to prune it back hard and all the advice I’ve read apart from yours says be careful. I’d hate to kill it (rather dig it out and give it to someone with room) but I really need to take it so far back that I’ll take off all the leaves (and flowers for this year I assume) but am hoping it will grow back new leaves from lower shoots?? Should I do it or not!! Any advice would be most appreciated, can email a picture if you want but have to do it soon as it’s in a rasied bed at a cottage about to be rented…so I won’t be able to get at it after flowering…
      Many Thanks

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