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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – October 12

I spoke to two delightful garden clubs today, and touched on pruning practices in both talks. Truth be told, pruning is a topic that could fill two or three meetings and at least one on-site demonstration if you want to do it right. Or make it clear. I find that it’s more distressing to see mal-pruned plants than it is to see shrubs and trees that haven’t been pruned at all. If you can’t do it right, remove the deadwood, and then leave the plant alone.

The worst offenders are those who think a plant has “gotten out of control.” What does that mean? I imagine plants roaming the streets assaulting people and snatching purses. Or shrubs that grab small children, and trees that howl curses all night. It turns out, however, that most folks who talk about out of control plants are merely saying that their shrubs and trees are growing to be the size and shape that genetics have intended them to be all along.

This is the situation: we place plants too close to buildings and to each other, we fertilize them and water them frequently which stimulates large, fast growth, and then we complain that they’re “out of control” when they get larger. Pogo was right: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Here’s an idea: stop butchering plants when they do what nature has intended all along. Move them, or let them grow large.

Hacked burning bush, made ugly for no reason! They could grow large here, but someone decided that they were "out of control" and cut willy-nilly. Some branches grew some pathetic sprouts, and others died. These plants are just as ugly today as when I took the photo four years ago. The only saving grace in this case is that burning bush are now a Banned-In-Boston (and elsewhere in Massachusetts) plant so goodbye to a not-so-nice invader. I say we do everyone a favor and cut these off at ground level.

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