Don’t Fear the Shears

   Written by on February 27, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Surely spring isn’t too far away. Keep telling yourself that…and cross your fingers.

While the onset of spring is always something to look forward to, the onset of spring may also strike fear in the hearts of the hardiest gardeners. It’s another pruning season! What and which and when and how, oh my! As with the weed-and-feed plan I proposed a couple of weeks ago, let’s see if I can make your pruning schedule a little less complicated.

logo - walk in gardenReally, it’s fairly simple if you’re observant. It’s actually easier than trying to remember to feed a cold and starve a fever, or is that starve a…never mind.  Here are the rules:

For late-flowering shrubs, prune in late winter or early spring. See? Late, late – before the new growth has a chance to get started.

For shrubs that bloom in the spring through June, prune immediately after blooms fade. Some examples of those shrubs would be azalea, clematis, dogwood, forsythia, lilac, redbud and wisteria. Those are the most common in this area and once their blooms fade and fall, it’s time to prune. Other common plants around here like camellia, crape myrtle, mimosa and many of the roses are best pruned before spring growth begins.

Now, so far, isn’t that easy? We’re not through yet, though.

Before you go tearing off into the yard armed with loppers and shears and clippers, stand back and devise a plan of attack. Take a good hard look at each of your victims, er, plants, and decide on a basic desirable shape. First, cut out any dead or diseased branches, right back to their point of origin. Then, cut longer branches back to a half-inch above a node or bud. If you cut all the way back to a bud, make sure it’s facing outward instead of in towards the middle of the plant. Rule of thumb: a light trimming will help create more, smaller flowers and branch growth. A heavier onslaught will produce fewer, bigger blooms.

I have a friend who has a deadly aversion to hedges. Two of them so far have fallen victim to her disdain. Folks used to plant hedges across the front of their property to edge the yard, provide a barrier for pets and children and keep unwanted visitors at bay. Likewise, hedges are used to mark boundary lines down the sides of property; almost as effective as those good fences people keep talking about.

Truth be known, my friend simply did not want to deal with the job of pruning those hedges. And yes, it can be quite a chore, especially if you have not kept hedge growth under control over time. Hedges need to be pruned a lot; new growth should not exceed one foot before going under the knife, or clippers as it were. Privet hedges grow like crazy around here, boxwood not so fast. At any rate, prune so that bottom branches receive sunlight. If your hedge ends up with the top wider than the bottom, you’re going to have dead ugly branches at the bottom which will create all kinds of holes for the pets and children to escape through. Step back from the hedge often as you go, making sure you’re creating the shape you want. Topiary at this point should not even cross your mind.

Now that you have pruning basics in mind, spend some time preparing your pruning tools. Besides, haven’t you run out of things to do when you’re trapped in the house during this cold weather?

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