I have one client who really loves winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) – she has it across one entire wall of her very beautiful 17th-century house. She was wondering why it was getting leggy and hardly flowering at all, so she asked me to sort it out.

Well, once I got up close and personal, it was pretty obvious what had been going on. In an attempt to keep this sometimes unruly shrub back against the wall, she had been trimming it much like a hedge all summer. Result – all the sun-ripened growth which should have borne this winter’s flowers had been chopped right off. The plant had been trying to replace its lost flowers by producing more and more shoots, which were then also trimmed, resulting in a plant that looked like it had bottle-brushes on the end of its stems! The long, whippy woody stems hadn’t been encouraged to produce the usual green flower-bearing shoots from lower down, so they had also remained bare and the whole thing was in a truly sorry state.

Fortunately it was reasonably easy to put right. I trimmed back the older long whippy shoots to cut off the bottle-brushes, then took out a few of them to reduce the density. The few green shoots which remained I’ve cut back to a couple of buds from the main stems – which you should do annually at this time of year, after flowering, to keep them productive.

With a bit of luck, next year the plants will be producing new strong growth from the base, and the dormant buds on the woody framework stems should spring into life. My poor client got a (gentle!) lecture from me about leaving well alone during the year and tying in wayward shoots rather than chopping them off – and I left her, and her plants, a lot happier.

It’s such a shame that so often plants which perform beautifully are prevented from doing so by sheer ignorance about how they do what they do (often by the most well-meaning of people). Mind you, it’s also what makes my job so satisfying – I can fix a lot of these kinds of problems relatively easily, and am treated like a magician when miraculously the plant does what it wanted to do all along!