We want our yards to look good all year long. It takes good, old fashioned elbow grease to keep our gardens thriving and growing. Between the rakes, mowers, shovels, spades, hose, and wheel barrel, it's not a job for weaklings! Fortunately, we have some tips for you to make yard work easier and productive.
The area that we are tackling today are shrubs. There are several reasons why we may feel the need to trim back our shrubs. If the bushes in your foundation plantings are overgrown, you may have the urge to start hacking away at them. But before you haphazardly attack that lopsided hydrangea devouring your front walk or the rhododendron obscuring your windows, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the basic information on pruning shrubs.
Caring for shrubs on a regular basis is one of the tasks to keep them growing and flowering. Spring is the perfect time to examine the health of landscape shrubs. Mature shrubs can quickly become overgrown and wild. Bushes originally planted to provide tranquil surroundings, shade, or privacy, may no longer flourish. Additionally, overgrown, unsightly shrubs may block walkways and paths. Shrubs may have life left in them, even when they appear tattered. Busy home owners in Naperville, Illinois often do not have the time to properly care for shrubs, and many turn to a professional landscape company like PS Garden Whisperers, for help to rejuvenate their yard.
What exactly is pruning? A basic definition is an important gardening skill, pruning refers to the trimming and cutting of plants to rid them of any injured, dead, or infected roots and wood. In some cases, pruning is also used as a preventive measure to make space for any new seedling or growth.
There are two types of pruning we will discuss first. Selective pruning, an important maintenance practice used to remove broken, damaged and diseased branches from trees and shrubs. Selective pruning is used to improve their shape, control their size and increase air circulation to discourage disease. This can be done with either pruning shears or simply by breaking them off with your hands. If you keep up with your selective pruning, this won't take much time out of your weekly gardening.
There’s another, more severe, method of pruning and it's called rejuvenation pruning.
Rejuvenation pruning is the extreme cutting back of (otherwise healthy) overgrown or underproductive shrubs. The method should be used when shrubs have become overgrown, present with a wide open area in their centers or simply have declined and are failing to thrive, fruit or flower. The goal is to force the plant to replace older, weaker stems and less productive branches with fresh, new, vigorous ones. It’s drastic, but when all is said and done, it will be like having a brand-new plant.
Do not attempt rejuvenation pruning on needled evergreen shrubs. They should never be pruned beyond their needles, that is, cuts shouldn’t be made on bare wood. Likewise, do not completely cut down shrubs that grow from a single trunk. Rejuvenation pruning is intended for caning shrubs, those that send up multiple stems straight from the ground.
It’s crucial to rejuvenate old shrubs at the right time, limiting damage during the pruning process. Pruning shrubs, or cutting them back, at the wrong time can impact flower production and foliage growth. Any shrub marked for rejuvenation, due to severe damage or dead growth, should be worked on in early spring, before new growth appears.
Most trees and shrubs are dormant in late winter and early spring. This is the perfect time to prune a shrub that blooms in the summer or fall, such as a butterfly bush, caryoptens, and rose of Sharon.
Flowering shrubs and trees, including azaleas, lilacs, roses, and rhododendrons, should be rejuvenated after their blooms begin to die off. Their growth and blooms are from the previous year. Depending upon the flowering shrub, the pruning may be done during the spring or summer.
Watch this video to learn how.
Methods of Rejuvenating Shrubs
Begin by pruning away dead or damaged branches with a pruning shear, lopper, or a saw. Your tools should be sharp enough to leave a straight, clean cut. It's not ideal to leave ragged edges. Consider using anvil pruners and bypass loppers, which allow even smaller hands to cut branches up to one and a half inches thick. You'll need a small powered chainsaw, a wood saw, or metal hacksaw for thicker branches and trunks.
Where to Cut
Prune just above what's known as the "branch collar," that little ring of bumpy tissue at the junction of a branch and main trunk. The bumpy area is rich with plant growth cells. Leaving the collar intact gives your shrub a better chance to callous over and recover from your surgery.
To rejuvenate very old shrubs with large areas of dead growth, you may need to hard prune the shrubs. This will leave a stub just 6 – 12 inches above the ground. Hard prune shrubs in spring before buds open, using a long-handled pruner. Because heavy pruning is stressful on shrubs, they will require a lot of attention for the first year or two. Ensure that the shrubs are watered well and continually examine them for disease and pests. A northern New Jersey landscape company can assist you with organic fertilizer options for your shrubs and soil, that support new growth.
Diseased leaves and branches must also be removed from shrubs. Broken branches, leftover from the winter, can be pruned with a hand pruner or handsaw. Remove the oldest shoots from spring-blooming shrubs and trees, to promote new blooms next year. A pole saw with a rotating head works well for tall shrubs and trees. Regular pruning and maintenance of shrubs removes unattractive and unhealthy growth every year. Rejuvenating shrubs in this manner prevents overgrown, diseased, and dead shrubs.
When you rejuvenate shrubs, it’s critical not to stress the plant, weakening it. Removing all of the stems, branches, and leaves makes it more vulnerable to diseases and pests. A regular maintenance program, with the help of a professional landscape company, will keep your Bergen County yard, and shrubs, healthy and attractive year-round.
1. Sever the entire plant by cutting it down to the soil line. This method requires a certain level of intestinal fortitude because, let’s face it, it can be nerve-wracking to cut a mature plant to the ground. Waiting for it to grow back while looking at a gap in your landscape isn’t pleasant either, and the time it takes to grow back can vary widely, according to the type of shrub. But this method will provide the most uniform results.
2. Prune all the branches to unequal heights in one session. Begin by removing broken, crisscrossed and diseased branches at their bases, then stand back and visualize the overall size and shape you’d like, and prune each remaining stem or branch, some long and others shorter, making each cut above an outward-facing lateral branch or bud. It’s from these buds that new, outward growth will be stimulated.
3. Remove one-third of the plant’s branches each year over the course of three years, starting with the oldest, least productive. This is the least severe method, as well as the least intrusive to your landscape, but you have to remember to follow through and complete the second and third phases over the next two years.
If a shrub has one to several largely upright main stems and a framework of branches, you can convert it to a small tree by removing the lower branches.
If just one main stem is in good shape or well placed, cut the rest to the ground; the remaining main stem will become the trunk of the “tree.” Remove side stems on the trunk up to the point where you want branching to begin.
If the shrub has several good stems, you can leave them all. Remove side stems up to the point where you want branching to begin; then thin out those that remain to form an uncluttered crown for your new tree.
If you do not want to transform an overgrown shrub into a tree, you can sometimes force it to grow to a lower height. To do this, cut the highest branches back halfway, making heading cuts. Select about a third of the branches for such treatment each year. Some of them may die, but others often sprout new growth at the lower level. Once you’ve achieved a smaller shrub with vigorous young growth, thin out any weak, badly placed, or crowding shoots.
Rejuvenating shrubs that grow from the base
Many of the shrubs that grow directly from the base, sending up stems (canes) from the roots, canwithstand severe pruning. Some of the plants described in this chapter that take such treatment are glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora), barberry (Berberis), forsythia, oleander (Nerium oleander), mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius), cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), and spiraea. Cut all growth back to the ground before new spring growth begins; if the treatment is successful, the plant will usually achieve its normal height within several years.
If you’re not sure that the shrub can take such drastic pruning, implement a 4-year program. Do no cutting the first year ― just water and fertilize well to make the plant as healthy as possible. Over the next 3 years, remove about a third of the oldest stems annually, pruning them back to the ground just before growth begins in spring.
Removing and replacing old shrubs is definitely an option, especially if they are dead or diseased. However, rejuvenating old shrubs, if feasible, is a better, and often more cost efficient option.
We want beautiful gardens all year long, from early spring up until the first frost. How do we do that? There is a science behind it all.
Gardening can be considered both as an art, concerned with arranging plants harmoniously in their surroundings, and as a science, encompassing the principles and techniques of plant cultivation. Because plants are often grown in conditions very different from those of their natural environment, it is necessary to apply cultivation techniques stemming from plant physiology, chemistry, and botany, that are modified and applied by the experience of the planter.
The gardener attends to a number of basic processes: combating weeds and pests; using space for enough growth between plants; feeding, watering, and pruning; and conditioning the soil. The gardener also assesses and accommodates the temperature, wind, rainfall, sunlight, and shade found within the garden boundaries. A major part of the fascination of gardening is that in problems and potential, no one garden is quite like another.
The gardener needs to assess by watching to see when the garden gets sunlight (morning, noon or late afternoon) and how long the sun lasts over the specific plot of land chosen for the garden. This will help determine which plants will thrive the best.
The soil needs to be tested to see if it is too acidic. The proper nutrients need to be added, so each plant grows to it's full potential.
Designing a year-round garden includes choosing appropriate plants for your region. Depending on where you live, you can use any combination of perennials, annuals and container plantings for these all-season flower gardens. Foliage is a must to fill in and create interest. It is best to choose at least two types of plants that will flower together during each season.
If you would like to enjoy year-round color in your flower beds, you have to go to the garden center in spring with one concept foremost in your mind: continuous sequence of bloom. Simply picking out plants that bear great-looking flowers in late spring will not get the job done. They look wonderful at the time, but you must think ahead to when they will not be in bloom.
There needs to be plants that flower both before and after each other, to keep the interest and color flowing. Foliage plants help here, too, as mentioned above. You also must add some evergreens to your landscaping to have visual interest in your yard 365 days a year.
Planting trees and shrubs, especially flowering ones are a great idea to achieve year round cover. They offer interest through their form and foliage as well as through their flowers. Any gardener seeking great color needs perennial flowers, shrubs, grasses and annual flowers.
Owner of PS Garden Whisperers.