Garden Clippings for April 13, 2019
If the weather cooperates, and it usually does, I will pick one of the Easter weekend days and call it a pruning day.
With my favorite Felco pruning tool in my back pocket, I will prune all day long. Easter weekend is the perfect time to prune almost anything. Plants have not yet begun growing and pruning is easy, effective and timely.
First on the list is Clematis, one by the back door and one by the garden shed. I cut them off near ground level and then cut the vines partway up the trellis because last year’s vines are often tightly tangled throughout the trellis.
Ornamental grasses get similar treatment, chopping them off at ground level, almost as if I ran them over with the mower. Ornamental grasses look wonderful in fall, and their stems are showy all winter long. By Easter weekend they need to be cleaned up to make room for new growth. Grasses are a nuisance to prune because the hedge sheer is no match for the dense stems. I just get down on all fours and use my trusty hand-held pruner to get the job done. If I had a power line trimmer, I would use it.
Once the job of trimming down the ornamental grass is done, consider dividing it up into smaller pieces. I usually do so every 3 or 4 years, in order to keep the grass at a manageable size. Almost all varieties of ornamental grasses should be pruned down in spring but short grasses such as Blue Oat, Blue Fescue and Golden Sedge should be left alone.
In a few short weeks, Roses will begin to swell their buds, indicating their wish to be pruned. Begin by removing the brown or tan rose canes. Your objective is to prune the roses down to 6 to 12 inches. Make your pruning cuts right above an outward facing bud. Climbing, rambler and shrub roses need not be trimmed unless you want to modify and control their growth.
Butterfly Bush is a summer flowering shrub that wants to be pruned early in spring. I will cut mine down to 4 or 5 inches of height. Other summer flowering shrubs such as Rose of Sharon and Potentilla should be pruned to whatever shape and size you like.
Hydrangeas are difficult to prune because there are no guide books to explain how that’s done. If you know what variety of Hydrangea you have, do an internet search to see if you can find its specific pruning instructions. Otherwise my rule of thumb is to cut down about a third of the Hydrangea, beginning with the oldest stems, leaving the vibrant younger stems to produce new leaves and flowers.
Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs until right after they have done their blooming. These include Lilac, Snowball, Weigela, Mock Orange and other shrubs that bloom before the end of June.
Next week we will examine pruning guidelines for trees and evergreens.