Mild Days & Mid-Winter Pruning

February 19th, 2012 § Comments Off on Mild Days & Mid-Winter Pruning § permalink

Although the Ice and Snow are Beautiful, Winter Damage Must be Cleaned Up Every Year & Now is the Best Time to Tackle Major Structural Tasks (Above: Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’) …

Although the old “prune in June” rule applies to certain woody plants in some situations —-those that blossom in early spring, such as lilacs (click here for how/when to prune lilacs) or the removal of suckers from the base of tree trunks, for example— and of course broken branches can and should always be removed whenever they are noticed, major structural pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs is best tackled during winter dormancy. I love winter pruning tasks, and find that warm, sunny days in late February, March and even early April (depending upon your climate, of course) are perfect for shaking off cabin fever and getting back in the garden! But, before you start cutting, take the time to clean and sharpen your tools, and take a long walk around the garden; examining the skeletal form of your plants while keeping an eye out for winter damage caused by heavy snow-loads, ice and wind. See any cracked branches or snapped limbs on your ornamental trees and shrubs? Any damaged trees or large shrubs located near power lines should be dealt with by a professional landscape contractor or arborist. But small pruning tasks —especially those within easy reach— can be handled by most gardeners at this time of the year.

Red Twig Dogwood Adds a Beautiful Glow to the Winter Landscape. I Thin 1/3 of the Stems Each Year —Cutting Each Shoot All the Way Back to the Ground— in Late Winter or Early Spring to Encourage New Growth with the Beautiful Bright-Red Bark! (Of course, always wait ’til the ice melts before pruning branches and limbs).

Much as I love sculpting trees and shrubs to achieve their finest form for my clients, I get even more excited by the opportunity to teach other gardeners how to correctly prune the woody plants in their home landscapes, all by themselves! And as intimidating as it may seem, there’s nothing complicated about the process of pruning. A good book (such as this favorite by Lee Reich), a sharp pair of bypass pruners, and a broken branch or forgiving/neglected old shrub are all you really need to get started. For an introduction to pruning basics, travel back to a post from 2009 by clicking here.

Crushed Witch Alder (Fothergilla major): What a Mess! Click Here for Tips on How to Prune Out Winter-Damaged Branches

Below are three basic pruning cuts to practice. Remember, always clean and sharpen blades between specimens. For more specific tips, begin by revisiting my previous introductory article, and the cut-specific posts linked below!

Removing a Broken or Damaged Limb: Learn how to correctly make this cut with a Grecian Saw: click back to a detailed, tutorial post by here.

Learn how to properly prune plants with opposite budding patterns, like this Hydrangea, by clicking back to my tutorial post on the subject here.

Shrubs and trees with alternate budding and branching patterns require a slightly angled cut, sloping away from the bud. Learn more about how to prune alternate branches in my previous post here.

Post-pruning clean-up time. All pruning tools are cleaned with rubbing alcohol, sharpened with a whetstone, and oiled before returning to the garden room for storage

Felco 8 bypass pruners are the perfect tool for tending to the small branches of ornamental trees and shrubs as well as fruit-bearing woody-specimens in your landscape. Click here for more pruning tool suggestions.

Lee Reich: The Pruning Book – I Consider This Book an All-Time, Garden-Maintenance Classic!

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On a Cold, Wet November Morning the Red Twigs of Tartarian Dogwood are Still Burning Bright…

November 24th, 2009 § Comments Off on On a Cold, Wet November Morning the Red Twigs of Tartarian Dogwood are Still Burning Bright… § permalink

red twig dogwood

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), at Ferncliff in November…

There’s nothing like a dose of brilliant scarlet color to lift the spirits in dreary weather! On this damp, grey November morning, the twigs of Tartarian dogwood glow like red-hot embers in a bonfire. Isn’t it spectacular? Nature can be quite the artiste! This glorious woody shrub grows wild from Eastern Russia to North Korea and Northeast China. Here in North America, Tartarian dogwood is a well-mannered introduced species, hardy in USDA zones 2 – 7. Best massed for color-effect, each shrub will grow approximately 10′ high and wide. Although I occasionally use a single red twig dogwood in a small garden design, I prefer to see this beauty grouped, (as shown above), for a naturalized look.

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba), is a close relative of our native Redosier dogwood, (Cornus sericea), and although they are difficult to distinguish, (even for trained horticulturalists), in this case I prefer the non-native species to our own. My favorite Russian native, pictured here, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), tends to be more upright in habit than our native red twig dogwood, and to my eye, it is a bit brighter in stem color. The rounded form of the shrub is very attractive in summer, forming a natural looking, verdant backdrop for other plantings. In autumn, Tartarian dogwood holds its burgundy foliage until late fall. And when the leaves drop in late October, the stems shine brilliantly in the gloomy landscape. But this beautiful show is only just beginning! Come winter, the red twigs will make a stunning display against a backdrop of snow white. I like to cut about 1/3 of the stems to the ground in early spring, in order to encourage new woody growth. The younger stems shine brightest in the landscape…

red twig dogwood ll, march 19, 2009

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), at Ferncliff in March…

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