Christina's Corner - Step Away from the Crape Myrtles!
Newsletter #3 – February/March 2019
As a continuation from the previous newsletter, I wanted to spend more time talking about your shrub pruning chores. I did previously mention pruning the Summer bloomers - Ornamental Grasses, Roses, Butterfly Bush (Buddleia), and Chaste Tree (Vitex) - in late February through March. You may also prune Rose-of-Sharon (Althea), Smoke Bush (Cotinus), and other Summer babies at the same time.
Included in this group are the varieties of Hydrangea paniculata (Limelight, Little Lime, Bobo, etc.), which are sun-loving Hydrangeas that also bloom on new growth, rather than old branches. However, do not prune the Big Leaf, or Mop-Head, Hydrangeas until soon after bloom
I will repeat: be strong and try to resist the Dark Side when it comes to pruning Crape Myrtles. Less is definitely more with these plants – remove low branching, ground growth, and crossing limbs. If you follow this common sense, you will find that you have allowed a Crape Myrtle to do what it does best – bloom like crazy for months and actually have Fall color!
When it comes to our gorgeous Spring bloomers, please only prune these after they have bloomed out. Golden Bells (Forsythia), Quince (Chaenomeles), and Spirea (Bridal Veil, Bridal Wreath, other early bloomers) should be pruned every few years. The right way to prune these shrubs is to select the largest sprouts at ground level and prune them out. This enables the shrub to build new, fresher stems from the ground up and will help your plants to become fuller and bloom more heavily.
Azaleas are another reliable Spring bloomer that needs a cut after flowers fade. The newer reblooming Azaleas (Encore, Bloom-a-thon, ReBloom) also should be pruned to encourage new growth after the initial bloom season has ended. Although these types bloom again several times during the year, the best time to shape and prune is after this early bloom. Pruning later can interrupt or reduce the next bloom, unless done immediately after flowers fade.
Please do not just “round off” all of your shrubs – this leads to fresh growth on branch tips, while the interior of the shrub stays empty. With most types of shrubs, it is better long-term to remove only the fattest, oldest stems, taking the branch down to just above a lower branching section. This will cause new growth to fan out lower and thicker within the plant. Plus, most plants have a specific shape or form – fountain, vase, rounded, open, weeping, etc. - that add variety to your landscape. Trying to bend a plant’s shape to your will is time-consuming, the opposite of low-maintenance, and does not allow the plant to do what it should. Honestly, it is kind of weird to have lots of round and square blobs bouncing around in your mulch!
Only corrective or rejuvenating pruning is needed for most shrubs, cutting your work time by a good bit, as opposed to the practice of simply rounding off every shrub and getting the same look from all varieties. I cannot over-emphasize the beauty and comfort of seeing different varieties of shrubs, trees, ornamental grasses, and perennials layered and filling their own niches in their own unique ways – with color, texture, pattern, form, mass – all the basic elements of design!
A well-designed landscape is such a blessing and buffer for you and your family, providing many years of enjoyment, recreation, and relaxation. Who needs a vacation or expensive spa treatment when the things that rejuvenate your senses can be incorporated into your own space? Poorly designed and tended landscapes tend to cause more feelings of stress and disconnection from your surroundings. The right design can make a world of difference in how you feel in your own environment: relaxed, calmed, inspired. Isn’t that something we all need after coming home from a stressful day at work?