Start pruning — but not spring-flowering plants
Guidelines, courtesy of Osuna Nursery, will point gardeners to success
Q: I have several shrubs that are totally overgrown. There are rosemary, bird of paradise, butterfly bush plants, and some I don’t know the name of. When should I cut them back and how much? How do I cut them back a lot without making them look butchered? — K.M., Los Lunas
A: It is time to start the annual pruning. Since your plants are “totally overgrown” it might be best, for this year, to prune them back hard so you can get a handle on them. That way from now on you’d be more in control of how they’d look and behave.
I just need to remind you that you do NOT prune the spring-blooming shrubs now. Plants like forsythia and lilac, that reward us with so much color in the spring, have “set” their bloom on last year’s growth. Pruned now, you’d de-flower them and surely be disappointed.
I have poked about on the internet and Osuna Nursery’s tips for successful pruning are very thoughtful and easily understood, so thanks for that. Here you go, remembering these are guidelines …
not set-in-stone rules, OK?
■ Prune no more than a third of the plant. Now, that doesn’t mean just height — width needs to be taken back, too. In other words, prune all the way around.
■ Prune to shape. Look at the plant and its surroundings. If you have a plant that is being pushy and parts are in the way, it’s up to you to decide how to train the plant to make it fit.
■ Prune off all dead or damaged branches, stems and twigs.
■ Prune out branches that cross or rub another branch. This is where you’ll need to get down to plant level and look internally in the shrub, decide which way you want the plant to grow, and eliminate the other branch.
■ Prune to thin out the interior of the plant to increase air circulation. Part of this process is done while you’re pruning out crossed or rubbing stems but aim to take out really old “wood,” so the plants are more likely to regenerate fresh growth. Now, that doesn’t mean removing a complete support system. Just get in there, look for parts that can be removed, open up the plants, and you’ll increase the amount of air and sunlight that will penetrate to help keep the plants healthy.
If you have the capability to take photos on your phone or tablet, I would suggest documenting the lot, and getting to a full-service nursery that has staff to help you identify the plants you have and certainly offer some pruning guidance to you. You should be able to get plants identified and a modicum of pertinent pruning suggestions.
No, I not suggesting that someone is going to spend hours with you but at least you’d be a tad more informed when it comes to making your pruning decisions. Know, too, that resources like the Master Gardeners and your County Ag Agents are chock full of information, too. Have fun making your plants healthier!
Q: Reference to “Dormant Oil” articles, is the stuff called “Dormant Oil” on the label? — L.B., Albuquerque
A: I know that the Ortho brand of dormant oil is labeled as “VOLCK Oil.” Several nurseries in the area sell a brand called “Bonide” dormant oil. But I’m sure there are several to choose from.
You are going to read the label and look for a chemical called “PETROLEUM DISTILLATE” or distillate of petroleum. That’s not the “name brand” that’s what the product is made of. Some labels might say “Horticultural Grade Oil.” That’s what you are looking for, a finely distilled petroleum-based product. It’s up to you to search out the product and most importantly read the label for the contents.
Good Luck and Happy Diggin’ In!
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103, or to fea[email protected]nal.com.