Get out the shears, prune the shrubbery

Published 1:34 pm Monday, June 29, 2020

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by Max Phelps

Yards to Paradise


Humid and warm weather makes the lawn get hairy almost overnight, and the shrubs seem to grow a foot a week. These conditions are good for pruning many things. Just not all things—some are better pruned when dormant in fall or winter.

Spring-blooming plants that bear flowers on hardened wood from the previous season (azaleas for instance) should be trimmed as soon as flowering is over with. They can be tip pruned a bit later on in the summer or fall, but major pruning late in the season will mean they don’t bloom next year. Clip the dead blooms right off, and new growth can have tips removed to make the plant bushier. Removing a few large limbs will reinvigorate older or overgrown plants.

Sometimes we hesitate to prune young plants, because we want them to hurry and get taller. But pinching growing tips won’t slow them a lot, but will produce lower and side branches.

A number of trees can be ‘limbed up’ in the summer rather than waiting for winter. If your tree or shrub has a trunk you want to see, removing lower growth can be done most anytime if you don’t over-do it. Summer pruning by shortening numerous limbs will slow the growth of trees; shrubs often regrow and need more than one pruning. Dead limbs can be removed safely at most any time but be careful to make a clean cut and not damage other parts of the growing tree.

Yews or taxus, junipers, many evergreens, can be pruned now. Burning bushes can be hedge trimmed. Fruit-bearing plants should be selectively snipped so as not to remove too much future cropping. Use hand pruners for things like blueberries or blackberries, shortening tips of long branches or canes, and removing weak ones that won’t bear much fruit. About a quarter inch above a good viable bud is about the right place to make a good cut with clean sharp pruning shears.

Hydrangeas, mock orange, honeysuckle are some of the plants that you might want to cut almost to the ground when they have finished their blooming. (Just not in really hot/dry weather.)

Hollies can be lightly snipped, daffodils and tulips can be cut or mowed. Best wait until August for iris, and late fall for peonies.

Fertilize plants after pruning. Be prepared to also water if the rain should suddenly stop for a few days after you’ve applied fertilizer.

Think of pruning your plants as correction. You discipline a child to make it become a better grownup. It’s the same principle. Your plants will make you proud of them, (as will your children), hen you spend a little effort ‘correcting’ their natural growth.

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