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“To Prune or not to prune, that is the question….”
Homeowners face this question every year. Some have heard fall is the best time, some have heard spring, and some have just decided, “whenever you have the time is the best time”.

The answer, however, is quite simple; when does your plant bloom? Spring blooming plants including forsythia, viburnum, lilac, fothergilla, quince, etc need to be pruned after they have flowered in the spring. Pruning in late fall will not injure or harm the plant, but it will affect the amount of flowers you will receive in the spring. Summer blooming shrubs such as spirea, deutzia, mock orange, rose of sharon and fall blooming shrubs will also be pruned in the same manner, after they have bloomed to maximize floral displays. Shrubs that are non-blooming such as boxwood and yews can be pruned in the spring or the fall.

During especially difficult or bitter winters, shrubs may incur some winter die back. Make sure to prune off dead or broken branches to maintain appearance and overall plant health. Winter die back is especially common in plants such as weigela.

Woodier hydrangeas such as Pee Gee, Annabelle, Tardiva, Limelight, etc. may suffer some winter dieback, but should not be aggressively pruned back to the ground. Wait until they have leafed out, and prune back dead ends. Softer hydrangeas such as the mopheads; Endless Summer, Forever and Ever, and the Nikko Blue may die back all the way to the ground during the winter, and may require much more aggressive pruning. It is best to follow a wait and see approach with these as well, since some of the mopheads (Nikko Blue in particular) require the previous year’s growth to bloom. If you desire numerous blooms, heavy fall mulching will be required for older varieties, or replace them with the newer varieties that bloom on new wood as well

Trees may require light pruning to remove dead or diseased branches. Refer to the following illustration for further instruction (visit www.arborday.org)

Be sure to use clean, sharp tools when pruning. It is possible to spread diseases to plants through the use of dirty tools. Sterilize tools with a bleach solution after removing diseased tissue. Do not add these trimmings to your compost pile.

Product Spotlight

Many of our customers are looking for ways to reduce the amount of weeds in their gardens and landscape beds. Choosing the best product requires some planning and thought, due to the different life stages of plants, and their different biology. Get off on the right foot in the spring by applying Preen™. Also available in an organic form, Preen™ works by preventing weed seeds from germinating. It does not affect existing desired plants and weeds, it stops seeds from growing. Apply this easy to use granular product after beds have been mulched to maintain a clean look all year long.

Once weeds have begun to grow, there are several products to choose from based upon the type of weeds growing in the bed. Round-Up™ will kill all types of weeds, but it will also kill your desired shrubs if it comes in contact with the leaves. Do not use on a windy day, and be sure to protect desired plantings. If turf grasses as well as other grass like weeds are nuisance, Ortho Grass B Gone™ is an excellent choice to rid the landscape bed of weeds. This product will not kill broad leaved shrubs and trees if applied in landscape beds, but will affect narrow leaved perennials, so use caution. This product, while very effective, does not visually appear to work as quickly as Round-Up™, so homeowners need to practice a little patience. A prime use of this herbicide would be to remove grass weeds in a bed of ground cover such as spurge, vinca or english ivy.

It is very important to remember that while plants may be classified as weeds, plants do not grow as trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and weeds. Any plants that is growing in an undesirable location is considered a weed, so there is no true “weed killer” that will selectively kill weeds and not desirable plants. Gardeners are not just fighting crabgrass and dandelions, tree saplings growing in turf and landscape beds are considered weeds, just like corn growing in a field of wheat is considered a weed.

Feel free to ask for help determining the right product and it’s usage for your yard!

Is it dead?

Ah, Spring! After snows and biting cold, we are all ready for fantastic foliage and blooming blossoms. As soon as the first honeysuckle leafs out, we assume that every other plant will be soon to follow. It is important to remember that all plants are not on the same schedule. Willows, kerria and daylilies make their appearance early, while plants such as summersweet, itea and winterberry are very slow to leaf out, and may be the only thing in your landscape without leaves for a period of time. New transplants may also be “behind schedule”. It is important to practice patience, and make sure you have fertilized and kept these plants watered during dry times. If you are concerned that your shrub or tree has died, you can carefully scratch the bark in a small area with your fingernail, if you see green, the plant is still alive, do not despair. Don’t assume plants are dead just because they have not begun to leaf out, investigate before you replace it.

Ask Olivia

Dear Olivia,

While riding through town the other day, I noticed that Richland is considered a “Tree City U.S.A”. We have been learning about trees in school and I think they are very neat. My teacher said that Arbor Day is coming up soon, and that our families should plan an Arbor Day celebration. My mom said she is too tired to plan a party. How can I participate?

Dear Friend,

The great thing about trees is that they don’t need a party! Your teacher doesn’t mean a celebration that includes invitations, cake, ice cream and balloons, trees aren’t that fussy. An Arbor Day celebration can be as simple as recognizing how wonderful trees are for our environment. Planting a tree in your yard together as a family would be a great way to honor this day. Maybe you have lost a loved one or a family pet this past year, plant a tree in their memory.

Our New Field Reporter (and my sister) Madilyn adds:

To ensure that your tree thrives, make sure to select an appropriate tree for the location where you are going to plant. Maples and oaks need a lot of space, while crabapples, amur maples and redbuds might be a better choice for a smaller area. Sunlight is another important factor to consider, so for shady locations, a dogwood or serviceberry is a nice choice. A weeping pussy willow or a river birch is a nice tree for a moist to sometimes wet area. Be sure to plant your tree with some compost or manure and fertilizer. Protect tree bark from gnawing animals and mowing equipment.