I pruned my Pinky Winky Hydrangeas this morning. Yes, it’s the very end of June and yes, I probably should have pruned this plant in April or May. The flowers on this shrub turn gray and stiff over the winter…unlike other hydrangeas the remains of last year’s blooms don’t just drop off.
Although I noticed how ugly these old flowers still looked as summer is well underway, I didn’t get around to clipping them off until today. This was my morning for cutting early-flowering perennials to the ground so I was making the rounds with my garden cart, pruners and shearing tool. First the Nepeta was sheared down, then the remaining ox-eye daisies and Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate.’ When I came across the flopping and yellowing daffodil foliage this was cut down too.
Since I had my pruners in my pocket and the garden cart wasn’t yet full there was no reason that I couldn’t get Pinky Winky cleaned up. I clipped off all the old, dried flower stalks. Next I cut back some of the taller canes that were showing large stretches of bare wood. These were clipped down into the plant so that the cuts don’t show.
Pruning always stimulates growth and I removed about an eighth of each shrub’s total mass, so I fully expect to see some new branches formed in response to my clipping. I’ve seen other Hydrangea paniculata that have either been clipped or deer-munched in late-June and these went on to produce new growth with late-forming flowers. Since these shrubs bloom on new growth it’s possible to use a June pruning to stimulate new white flowers later in the fall.
Is there a proper time to prune shrubs? Absolutely. But sometimes we need to go with the wisdom of an old farmer’s saying: Prune when the shears are sharp.