Start prun­ing — but not spring-flow­er­ing plants

Guide­lines, cour­tesy of Osuna Nurs­ery, will point gar­den­ers to suc­cess

Albuquerque Journal - - BOOKS -

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 …

DIG­GING IN

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.

Tracey Fitzgib­bon

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