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Recipe For Pruning, Continued

Garden Reports and Rejoicing – September 29

Now for the photos that go with the pruning recipe posted yesterday. This post was in response to a talk I gave at the North Shore Horticultural Society in Manchester, MA on Tuesday. Although people said that they loved my talk, I came away wishing that I’d started with a general recipe for pruning. So yesterday I wrote one and posted it here. The problem with pruning, of course, is that there is no one way to treat all plants. Even the recipe has exceptions or additions. That said, let’s continue the conversation tonight and, perhaps, beyond.

Butterfly bush should get a renewal pruning every spring. This is how a young Buddleia that is about six feet tall looks in March. Time for a Marine Corps haircut!

This is how that butterfly bush looked after I cut it back to about 16" tall. This is called a renewal pruning and although it's fine for a butterfly bush, not all shrubs respond well. So screw up your nerve to do this to a butterfly bush but think twice, and do your research, when it comes to other plants.

Since butterfly bush grows about 6' tall in one season, and it blooms on the ends of that new growth, such hard pruning rejuvenates the plant and keeps the flowers at eye level. This is the same plant I cut back to the nubs in March, and it was six feet tall and flowering by July.

Weigela is a wild and wooly shrub that usually needs an annual taming. Prune this shrub lightly in March and again after flowering. This is the before shot...

This photo shows what I would want to cut off. Remove dead wood first, remember? Next identify branches that are odd, funky, moving toward the center or not contributing to the overall shape. Don't cut the plant flat off the top, however...flattop haircuts went out after the 1950's!

Here is the shrub after pruning. This is a Weigela 'Ghost' by the way...a great variety that blooms in both spring and fall.

This shows how the shrub looks now, in September. Because I cut off those straight shoots that were on the right side of the shrub the stems branched out and made this area full. Next year I'll probably cut the plant back by half of its total height after it blooms in May. I guess I'd say that Weigela isn't a plant-and-forget shrub unless you give it a large space in a shrub border away from buildings.

3 Responses to “Recipe For Pruning, Continued”

  1. 1
    Donna B.:

    Thank you C.L.! It would explain my lack of leaves [even though the flowering was unaffected?] without the renewal pruning! I will take your wisdom to heart and give that butterfly bush a “marine corps haircut” next year~ hee hee!

  2. 2
    Keith Hochstein:

    When and how do you prune a hydrangea that has branches that are now flopping over?

  3. 3
    CL Fornari:

    Keith –
    Because pruning always stimulates growth, and that new growth is weaker and more prone to flopping, cutting never will make a hydrangea more upright. If the plant is flopping stake selected stems upright to immediately improve appearance. Next spring prune off any branches that are on the ground or more horizontal by removing them completely but leave the vertical growth alone so that it gets stronger. The less pruning you do the stronger the plant will be.