We love hydrangeas. Oakleaf hydrangeas, hardy hydrangeas, smooth hydrangeas - we love them all. Most of the year they’re easy to care for as long as they have enough water, but late in the season some weird looking things can show up on the leaves: hydrangea rust and leaf spot. The good news is that these fungal leaf diseases pose no long-term threat to the health of your plants, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the aesthetic damage.
Do you hate walking out the door in the summer to find your impatiens nipped off at the ground or your hosta leaves cut back to the stem? Maybe you're plagued even earlier in the year, with mysteriously disappearing tulips or neatly cropped pansies. It’s almost time to start seeing deer damage, and if they're already sampling your garden your garden, now is the time to act.
What is the single most important factor in the short-term and long-term success of a new planting? If you said proper watering, you're right. Newly installed plants don't have extensive root systems like more established plants, so they rely on the moisture present in their root ball. Even drought-tolerant species will need a little help at first.
It's time for another tree care lesson! If you need a refresher on why we value trees so much, check out our post on the top 10 benefits of urban trees. Today we'll talk about proper pruning technique and why it's so important.
It's the time of the year where you're probably starting to think about tidying up wayward shrubs and pruning hedges during the spring growth spurt. But before you grab shears or gas-powered hedge trimmers, let's talk about proper pruning practices and how they differ from species to species. Not all shrubs can be pruned the same if you want them to live long and prosper.
Rule #1 is to put away your electric or gas-powered hedge trimmers. Unless you're maintaining a substantial yew hedge or something like that, this tool doesn't have a place in shrub pruning. They can be useful for cutting back ornamental grasses or other sturdy perennials, but when used on shrubs they can tear and tatter twigs ends and leave the shrub vulnerable to pest and disease problems, along with leaving unsightly dead tips on branches.
Even if you're using sharp, clean hand shears, a tight globe or box look is not suitable for every shrub in the landscape. For some species, this kind of pruning can result in poor internal structure that leaves huge holes in the shrub if even a single branch is lost. Pruning shrubs into uniform shapes can also rob them of the beauty of their natural form. We pick shrubs not just to provide a desired flower color or fill a space; when we design we take into account the natural shape and texture of a shrub, and if you shear a shrub that isn’t meant to be sheared, you’ll lose its natural beauty. You can also be giving yourself a headache, as some species will fight back with aggressive shoot growth after shearing. If you've ever tried to shear forsythia, you know what I'm talking about.
However, there are times when you want or need the clean formal shapes that a pair of hedge clippers can bring. The following species tolerate shearing well: arborvitae, yew, boxwood, privet*, barberry*, and burning bush*. When shearing a hedge, keep the top slightly narrower than the base. Hedges that are narrower at the bottom often end up thin and scraggly at the bottom because sunlight can't reach the lower branches.
So how do you keep other species of shrubs in check if shearing isn't an option? Selective pruning is the process of removing individual branches to control the size and shape of your shrub or promote without destroying its natural shape. Branches can be cut back where they connect to a larger branch or snipped off just above a lower bud. If it seems like the bush is getting too dense and crowded, limbs can be removed all the way down to the ground. Make sure you look twice and cut once so you don't accidentally remove a limb that will leave a bare spot. This may be unavoidable at first if you're switching from shearing to selective pruning, but with time it will be easier. See the diagram on the left for an illustration of selective pruning.
If this seems like a lot of work, don't worry. Once you ditch the shears and pick up the hand pruners, you'll notice that your shrubs need considerably less taming. You will rarely see long, leggy shoots springing up left and right once you switch your methods and stick to it. Instead you'll just be removing the occasional wayward shoot and periodically reducing the shrub's size. If your shrubs have been sheared for so long that you are left with dense growth on the outer few inches and twiggy, leafless growth on the inside, then you may need to resort to renewal or rejuvenation pruning to bring it back to a healthy habit.
One last consideration in pruning is timing. Pruning should be done when the plant has the most time to recover, such as early spring or early summer (unless you're cutting just a few stems - you can do that any time without doing the plant any real harm). If you prune in the hottest part of the summer when your shrub is already stressed, you can increase the plant's stress and make it more vulnerable to other problems. Pruning in the fall can encourage new growth that won't have enough time to mature before freezing temperatures arrive, especially if you're shearing a hedge. Flowering shrubs need to be pruned at different times of year depending on when they flower. Spring blooming shrubs usually develop next year's flower buds during the summer, so it's vital that you prune immediately after flowering so you don't remove next year's flower buds. Summer blooming shrubs usually bloom on new growth, so they should be pruned after flowering, but before new growth starts in spring. Some shrubs can be pruned at any time, because they bloom on both new and old stems. Below I've listed some common flowering shrubs by optimum pruning time.
Prune in spring immediately after flowering:
Deutzia (Deutzia gracilis)
Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)
Rhododendron and Azalea (Rhododendron species)
Thunberg Spirea (Spiraea thunbergii) (varieties include 'Ogon')
Lilac (Syringa species)
Viburnum (Viburnum species)
Weigela (Weigela hybrids)
Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla x gardenii)
Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia and melanocarpa)
Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Big Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Prune before spring growth:
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia hybrids and species)
Beautyberry (Callicarpa species and hybrids)
Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens, varieties include 'Annabelle', 'Incrediball', 'Invincibelle Spirit')
Hardy Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata, varieties include 'Limelight', 'Pinky Winky', 'Quick Fire')
Sumac (Rhus species)
Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)
Summersweet Clethra (Clethra alnifolia)
Bumald Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda, varieties include 'Anthony Waterer')
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Prune before or after blooming:
Reblooming Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla, specific varieties such as Endless Summer series)
Knock-Out Roses (Rosa Knock-Out hybrids)
Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica, varieties include 'Little Princess', 'Goldflame', 'Magic Carpet')
I've provided some additional resources on pruning shrubs below. Feel free to direct any other questions you may have to me. Good pruning practices are essential to the long-term health and beauty of your garden, and we’d like to help. Contact us to learn more about what our maintenance team can do for you.
*Privet, barberry, and burning bush are considered invasive and should be avoided. Privet and barberry are included in Indiana’s newly adopted list of banned invasive plants, and they will not be available for purchase within a few years.
Keeping your lawn healthy and clean is a hassle enough but year after year pests can make it even more difficult. If you've noticed thinning grass and/or patches in your lawn chances are its time to check for grubs. The easiest way to check for grubs is to simply dig up some soil of about 2 inches deep and examine it.
At 317Grow, our standard lawn application regimen includes five applications spaced throughout the year. If you have a lawn care contract with us, this is probably old news to you, but have you ever wondered what goes into each application? This week on the blog we'll got into detail on each application and what it does for your lawn. For some more general information about our full range of lawn care services, check out last year's interview with Brian, our part owner and maintenance manager.
Now that we have had a few frosts and freezes, your landscape is probably mostly brown for the winter. Around this time of year I start go get a lot of questions about which plants should be cut back and which ones should be left. Fortunately for you, it's hard to go wrong on this. No plant will be hurt by not cutting it back, and most plants won't be bothered by being cut back. The decision-making mostly boils down to how much work you want to do now vs. in the spring, and what sort of look you like through the winter. To help you decide what goes and what stays, I'll break plants down into some helpful categories.