Gardening with Micki: Pick the right time for pruning

Prune summer blooming shrubs by cutting back branches to healthy buds pointing in the direction you want shrubs to grow.

Just before we get busy with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations, it's time to tour the garden and create a seasonal plan for pruning. This has nothing to do with the prunes some people might eat.

Not every plant in the garden will need to suffer this gardening procedure. Look at gardening tools and you might cringe at the instruments and process involved to keep trees, shrubs and flowers healthy and productive. I compare this process to taking your children and yourself for annual vaccinations. Basically, pruning is all about getting rid of dead weight as well as dying or hazardous limbs in your garden. 

You can't prune without the proper tools. Your kitchen shears just won't cut it in the garden. hardware and lawn centers are great helpers in this area. These wicked-looking tools must be kept far out of children's reach.

The most timely advice for the current season is to cut the following plants to the ground after the first freeze in late February or the first of March. These include Ansonia, Artmesia, Cannas, Evergreen Ferns, Hostas, Lantanas and Salvia. If you are pruning trees, it's suggested to prune just above the branch. 

Winter is a master at disguising a garden's flaws and needs. Snow is an even better mask. That's probably why I enjoy reading "The Garden in Winter" by Rosemary Verey. The author shows a beautiful side of nature in the coldest season when garden beauties seem asleep.

A favorite source is "Gardening Made Easy" by Better Homes & Gardens, which offers seasonal tips on this important facet of gardening.

FALL: Cut back branches that interfere with power. Prune back roses to one third the shrub size. Reshape hedges now shaggy since their spring shearing. 

LATE WINTER/EARLY SPRING: Prune summer blooming shrubs by cutting back branches to healthy buds pointing in the direction you want shrubs to grow. Prune trees, especially fruit trees.

SPRING: Wait for the blossoms to fade on spring flowering shrubs, such as lilacs and then prune. Shear hedges in spring or early summer.

ANYTIME: Remove dead, broken or diseased stems. 

These are all perfect tips to keep your garden flourishing and beautiful.

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