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Volume 16, Issue 4 - January 24 - January 30, 2008

Pruning Shrubs Gone Wild: Part 2

Sharpen up; Pruning season is only weeks away

If your once-lovely shrubs have become more beastly than beautiful, there’s hope in your shears. An overgrown landscape of azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies, boxwood, yews, viburnums, forsythia, weigela, buddleia, cherry laurel or cotoneaster can be salvaged with judicious pruning.

Plants that have been sheared repeatedly over the years to contain their size have most likely developed a dense canopy of foliage on the outside with branches that appear dead on the inside. If the plants have been growing well, they will recover quickly as soon as growth resumes in the spring.

On the other hand, if the plants have appeared cholortic — yellow-green leaves and with poor growth — it is unlikely that these plants can be helped by pruning. You should plan to remove them.

If you are not overly concerned about the immediate appearance of your landscape, begin pruning in early March. Follow different rules for different species.

For andromeda, azaleas, boxwood, Japanese hollies and mountain laurel, remove all branches smaller than a pencil in diameter. Yes, you’ll be sacrificing some of the azalea bloom, a sure sign that spring has arrived. But the blossoms delay spring growth, so don’t wait until after the azaleas have flowered if you want your plants to recover quickly. Prune severely just before flowers open to gain two to three weeks of growth.

For cherry laurel, yews and Chinese, English and American hollies, remove all branches smaller than a dime in diameter.

For abelia, forsythia, weigela and viburnums, remove all rough-bark-covered stems as close to the ground as possible. This will stimulate new stems to grow from the base of the plant. These species produce their best flowers on young vigorous stems.

Don’t be afraid to prune. Pruning is a rejuvenating practice like daily exercise for the human body. Properly pruned plants perform better in the landscape than neglected plants. Try it: Your plants will like it.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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