Garden Clippings for Oct 14, 2017

Fall Pruning

Thanksgiving Day’s incredible weather compelled me to spend time in the garden rather than at the Brigden Fair.  At the end of the day, I realized we accomplished far more than anticipated.

Job one was emptying the containers of their seasonal flowers.  Most of the flowers still looked just fine, but we knew that a good frost was imminent.  On the compost heap went the Verbenas, trailing Vinca Vines, Impatience, Lobellias, Geraniums, and Coleus.

The Lantana and Hibiscus trees were repotted into plain grower’s pots.  I put them back on the patio with hopes that the Hummingbirds and butterflies might enjoy them for another week or two.  The Banana tree and Oleander were also taken out of their decorative containers and put into cheap grower pots.

Repotting selective annual flowers makes good sense particularly for the expensive specimen plants.  First remove the smaller annual flowers around the specimen to make space for the shovel.  Next dig down and around the plant with a round point shovel, and then place the plant in a pot that is only slightly larger than the root ball.  Add loose soil around the root zone and water thoroughly.

Finding a place to keep the plants might be challenging for most homeowners.  I am fortunate to have access to a heated greenhouse, a perfect environment for annual plants.  Last year, I opted to put them in a small room in the shed, where they were given just enough heat to remain above the freezing point.  The other option is keeping them indoors to be grown as a houseplant.  Find a spot with plenty natural light, keep up with the watering, and constantly be on the lookout for insects.

Job two on Thanksgiving Day was pruning.  I don’t really consider pruning back plants a chore because the rewards are so gratifying.

Ornamental evergreens love to be pruned and they don’t mind being cut back in spring, summer or fall.  Yews are on the top of my list.  I aggressively prune my spreading Yews by removing at least half their growth, and cutting them down to the shape of a tuna fish can.  My rather drastic pruning job doesn’t make them look wonderful but spring’s new growth will give them a perfect shape.

Boxwoods are best pruned with a hedge shear.  I start by cutting Boxwood back as far down as I have the nerve until the unattractive woody stems are partially exposed.  I then prune the sides until I have a round mound.  My Boxwood hedges are pruned into a box shape using a manual or gas hedge shear.

Clematis vines can be left till spring, but because I don’t like the appearance of Clematis twigs, I prefer to do the job in fall.  Most Clematis plants flower on new spring growth, so I cut my Clematis down to about 6 inches to encourage lush spring growth.

Gardeners often wonder when it makes most sense to prune Clematis.  As a rule of green thumb, if your Clematis blooms early in spring on the previous year’s growth, prune after it has flowered.  Clematis that blooms later in spring on current growth should be cut back in late fall or early spring.

Hold off on pruning spring flowering shrubs until they are done flowering.  Spring flowering shrubs such as Forsythia, Redbud, Mock Orange, Snowball, and Weigela form their flower buds during the previous summer, so pruning in fall will only serve to remove spring’s blooms.  Summer and fall flowering shrubs such as Rose of Sharon and Butterfly Bush can be pruned in the fall after they have flowered.