Garden with a Winner!™

September 23, 2018 To Prune or Not To Prune

September is a block buster busy month as it is, but now pruning as well – perhaps not! SO many folks think that because it’s a shrub it must be pruned, that’s just what is supposed to happen. Naturally there are some shrubs that can tolerate a fall pruning but honestly they are exceptions. Unfortunately, the exceptions are the characters that pose the most amount of confusion for new gardeners as well as some of the seasoned veterans. Let’s start with the terminology: trimming is not pruning. Trimming is a practice of clipping, molding and shaping shrubs into unnatural forms such as globes, small animals and other such quasi- topiary ideals. So many landscapes boast these symmetrical conical shapes and globes which to my mind provide you with a tremendous amount of unnecessary work. Enough of my rant, the fact remains that this is not pruning.

Pruning is the act of selectively removing unwanted, interfering, diseased or otherwise unwanted material.

What is import to understand is the bloom method or cycle of the species of plant that you are about to prune. Some plants push blossoms forth on existing or older wood, while others will only bloom on the newest wood or this season’s growth. Confusing this fundamental can have less than desirable results.

First off, the basics are that pruning fruit trees, shade and specimen trees and the like is optimally done when they are completely dormant, which means in the winter or very early spring. To do other wise causes the plant to produce growth stimulated by the pruning which will not survive the winter. Of course there are exceptions, horticulture is a science of exceptions with no firmer a playing field that in Canada. What is normal in BC is not the least acceptable to do on the Prairie provinces, so climate also factors into the mix.  Keep it simple and don’t prune in September, you’ll be busy enough with other chores.

A bit later on will come hydrangea pruning, and this is the great daddy of confusion for many. Those of us in the industry dealing with the general public are usually inundated with inquiries related to the Hydrangea gang. Simply put, Hydrangeas that bloom on their older wood are pruned (usually to keep them in control) after they have flowered. The Hydrangeas plants that bloom on new growth are pruned to maintain shape in the early spring as they are awakening or right now in September if you wish. That’s really all there is to it as far as fall pruning, so don’t over think the process and if all else fails, default is do NOTHING!

September 23rd, 2018