“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
Every time I reach for pruning shears in early fall, I’m reminded of Cass Turnbull’s sage advice (I’ve quoted the AI founder’s words several times) that sometimes in gardening, “what not to do” is more important than “what to do.” . If the impending arrival of fall makes you want to try pruning your shrubs, you may want to think twice.
Turnbull estimates that 80% of pruning by homeowners and professionals alike is bad or unnecessary, resulting in plants that are “unhealthy, unbeautiful, unmanageable and expensive to maintain”. According to Turnbull, it is a myth that gardeners must prune regularly to keep their shrubs in good shape. Your lawn may not really require as much maintenance as you have been giving it.
Take a look at one of the early spring flowers, such as lilac, magnolia, forsythia, large-leaf hydrangea or oak leaf. All the fuzzy bumps you see sticking out of the stems are flower buds. What happens if these bushes are pruned now? it is easy. You will eliminate flowering next spring.
This is because the bushes will bloom next spring on wood that grew this year, which means they thrive on “old” wood. The time to prune is immediately after the next year’s blooms fade. The list includes Andromeda (Pieris), beauty bush (Colwetzia), choke cherry, cotoneaster, Daphne, Diotsia, Fothergilla, Keria, mock orange, pyracantha, quince, some early-blooming spirea, sweethrop (Calicanthus), viburnum, weigela, wisteria and witch hazel. hazelnut.
There are summer flowering shrubs that bloom from buds on wood that grow early in the spring of the same year, meaning they thrive on “new” wood. Prune them in late winter or early spring while they are still dormant. This list includes abelia, barberry, burning bush, butterfly bush, chariopteris, clithra, dogwood, honeysuckle, panicles and hydrangeas of the genus Annabelle, Hypericum, Japanese spirea, ninebark, potentella, rose of sharon, sandcherry, smokebush and vitex. .
Most modern roses bloom on new wood and bloom almost continuously from early summer until frost. These include hybrid teas, large-flowered, floribunda, and some climbers and climbers. Prune it in the spring after removing winter protection. Some roses bloom on old wood and have a single flush of flowers in early summer. These include alba, damask, galica, moss, some climbers and climbers. Spring pruning is required, but should be limited to removing dead or diseased canes. Summer pruning (after flowering and before mid-August) can be done to shape these roses if you think they need them.
There are exceptions to every rule. In this case, it is four Ds. Dead, diseased, damaged, or deformed branches (rubbing with other branches, oriented in the wrong direction, or being an obstruction) can be removed at any time.
Before pruning, imagine how the plant will look when you’re done. An ocean of super glue can’t hold branches back together when they’ve gone too far.
Pruning techniques are as important as timing. These days, the noise of electric hedge trimmers removing this year’s growth from shrubs can be heard up and down the block. In most cases, it takes a long time to control the size and improve the appearance.
In fact, what storytelling achieves is exactly the opposite. Although it is suitable for formal hedges and topiary, most shrubs should not be pruned in this way. Cutting will destroy the shrub’s natural shape or reduce the amount of foliage and flowers inside. This may stimulate a rapid influx of new growth this fall that will not have time to harden off, making it vulnerable to winter kill. Wait until late this winter or next spring and use thin or selective head cuts instead.
Thinning maintains the natural shape of the plant and is especially useful for shrubs that suck at the base. Remove interior branches with scissors or a pruning saw to the base of the plant or point of origin, but remove only 1 to 3 of the largest branches at a time.
Selective heading can be used to reduce the height of most shrubs, but only for a while. What you cut will eventually grow back. You can’t turn a giraffe into a chihuahua. Remove each branch back to a larger branch or bud, leaving no stumps. Selective tipping reduces the amount of regrowth, looks more natural and is healthier for the plant. Besides thinning, the vast majority of shrubs should be pruned in this way.
Most shrubs look their best when they are allowed to grow as they should, not in narrow shapes like Edward Scissorhands. So prune only when necessary, and always think about the timing and style when doing so.
YouTube has a six-part “pruning guide” featuring Cass Turnbull. Check this before you pick up those shears.
• Carol Baranyi and her husband, John, found paradise on 1 1/3 acres west of Franklin Park, where they raised three children and became master gardeners. Contact her at email@example.com.