Pruning is among the most challenging tasks for many gardeners, so timely reviews of this topic may be helpful.
One of the three most important times of the year for pruning is right now.
Our plants grow with seasonal cycles, so here are the dates that gardeners should know:
- Spring Equinox (1st day of spring) March 20
- Summer Solstice (1st day of summer) June 21
- Fall Equinox (1st day of fall) September 22
- Winter Solstice (1st day of winter) December 21
Let us say we’re at mid-spring, because we don’t need to be obsessive. This is time to prune shrubs that flower in early spring.
Here are a few popular members of this desirable group:
- Saskatoon Serviceberry (Amelanchier ainifolia, a good choice for this area);
- Slender Deutzia (Deutzia gracillis, a hydrangea relative with lots of white blossoms);
- Hybrid Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia, several good cultivars);
- Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis ‘Pink Cloud’, a deer resistant native of China);
- Honeysuckle or Woodpine (Lonicera periclymenum, favorite of hummingbirds);
- Lewis’s Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii, a California native; the genus name comes from the Greek word for “brotherly,” like the Pennsylvania city);
- Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris, the Descanso hybrids have been bred for mild winters);
- Bridal Wreath or Shrubby Spiraea (S. x van houttei or S. japonica, butterfly magnet);
- Doublefile Viburnum (V. plicatum tomentosum ‘Shasta’, great lacecap flower heads;
- Weigela (Weigela florida, several selection of cultivars)(don’t call it “why-gee-li-a”),
Prune these shrubs soon after their spring blooms have faded, because the plant then will develop buds for the next season’s blossoms. Do not prune after the Fourth of July, because you will remove the new buds and won’t have flowers next spring.
Generally, maintenance pruning for these shrubs involves cutting to the ground about one-third of the oldest branches.
Spring Pruning of Roses
Late winter is still the usual time for major pruning of roses, but there are situations in which some mid-season pruning might be appropriate. In particular, if a rose has grown more exuberantly than you wanted, you could cut it back at this time of the year.
Many roses alternate between heavy flowering periods and rest periods. The timing guideline is to prune between bloom flushes, just so you are not removing blooms.
At this time, you should also remove any suckers, which are vigorous branches that grow from the rootstock of grafted roses and “suck” energy from the primary plant. If you think you have a sucker, make sure it is not a desirable new basal stem from above the bud union: look for differences in the leaves and prickles of the desired plant. Then, pull the sucker off so it won’t grow back; cutting just encourages re-growth.
Enjoy your garden!
(more to come)