Friday, March 13, 2009

Well, this past weekend would not have been a good one to spend out in the garden, but better weather will be here soon! Before things really get going, there are a few chores to be done prior to plants coming out of dormancy and that is pruning. Early spring is a great time to prune because the trees and shrubs have not leafed out and you can still see the branches and most plants heal more quickly in the spring than they do at other times of the year.

We prune for a variety of reasons. Pruning helps maintain the health of the plant. You can begin to control and train the growth of young trees and shrubs so that more drastic pruning doesn’t have to be done later. We also prune to rejuvenate shrubs, but sometimes replacement is the best option in these cases. Trees are a huge investment and add value to our homes, so it is worth spending the time to take care of them properly.

Shrubs: If you are rejuvenating a shrub do not prune more than of the plant during any one growing season. In most instances you will just be removing dead canes or giving a light shaping. In the early spring you can prune the summer blooming spireas, Rose of Sharon, dogwoods (those with colorful bark), privets, potentilla, St. John’s wort and snowberry. You could also prune the buddleia’s, caryopteris, and Russian sage, but here in our part of the country these tend to die back to the ground. Later in the early summer you can prune or shape the spring blooming shrubs such as lilac, rhodendrons, azaleas, and spring blooming spireas.

Trees: If you have mature trees it is probably best to call in a professional. They should send out a certified arborist to do the initial examination of the trees in question. They have the right equipment and experience to do the job right. There is a great pamphlet on the Cornell University web site called "An Illustrated Guide to Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs". They also have information on pruning fruit trees for maximum performance. Pruning fruit trees is definitely a science.

Roses: I always wait until my roses start to bud out before I prune. This way I know exactly what winter damage has occurred. I prune down to the first outward facing bud break. This encourages the growth away from the middle of the plant. You really want to keep the middles as free from branches and leaves as possible. This way light can get all the way down to the lower branches and give the plant the greatest opportunity for photosynthesis as possible. This will lead to greater flower production and is better for overall plant health.

One thing that is really important when pruning is using the proper tools and having them well maintained. At Countryside, the greenhouse staff all use Felco pruners. The great thing about Felco pruners is the blades are replaceable. They are made from high quality steel so they maintain their edge longer and it is worth getting them sharpened. We totally abuse our pruners, cutting wire and plastic and all sorts of things we shouldn’t. Last year K.C.’s husband Duane sharpened all our pruners and that edge lasted all summer. If your budget can’t stand the Felco’s, Corona tools has several pruners that come close to the Felco’s and are not as expensive. Also the Corona tool website has two downloadable guides to pruning so check those out at (Lucky thing I always check these links. The first time I typed this in from memory I thought it was just "corona," which naturally took me to the Corona beer site.)

I was going to also cover pruning clematis but that is whole blog in itself so I will cover that next time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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