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Early spring prompts early pruning

By Josette Keelor - jkeelor@nvdaily.com

Spring sprang early this year, prompting residents around the area to flex their green thumbs and begin preparing their gardens for a longer than usual growing season.

But the time for early spring pruning is waning fast, so those with an unfinished to-do list will want to cut back perennials, roses, ornamental grasses and boxwoods as soon as possible.

Begin pruning roses when they start budding, said Scott Edmonson, owner of Natural Art Garden Center in Toms Brook.

For climbing hydrangea, he said, "You could prune it right now, early spring, or you could prune it in the fall."

"You usually want to prune it back within three weeks after blooming," he said. This will prevent cutting off flower buds, he explained.

"You cut back your ornamental grasses when you do your perennials, roses," Edmonson said. "The problem is you cut all the new blades if you wait too long," he later added.

"And always cut 'em high, between 8 to 10 inches," he said. "Don't take the mower and hack them to death."

For beginners or those wishing to learn more about pruning, Edmonson recommends the book "Pruning Simplified," by Lewis Hill.

"You can look it up and it tells you exactly when to prune," Edmonson said.

"It's cut and dry," he said. "It's just very simple. It covers everything. It's a very cool book."
Just don't use the pair of shears pictured on the book's cover, he said.

"You should always use a pair of pruners that have blades on both sides," Edmonson said.
Use bypass shears, not anvil shears, he said.

Always cut branches at an angle, he said, and cut in the direction in which you want the branches to grow.

"If you want the plant to go inward, cut inward," he said. The opposite is true as well.
Plan for pruning evergreens in late spring or early summer, before it gets too hot, Edmonson said, otherwise the trees will get sun scald, especially boxwoods.

"Most of your pruning is done early fall, like your trees and stuff you want to do September, October," he said.

"The only thing we do with trees now is if there's two branches rubbing together," he said. "Because now it's sending all of this energy up to produce leaves and buds."

"If you start trimming the trees now, it's what you'd call bleeding," he said.

Not everything needs to be pruned, he said. Leave the tops of trees alone.

"It makes your tree very weak," he said.

And don't prune crape myrtles at all.

"We call it crape murder," he said, "... And our little saying is topless trees are indecent."
Fruit trees should be pruned in January or February, Edmonson said.

"They're dormant, it's a good time to prune them," he said. "And when you're pruning, you should always look for diseases."

Eggs or bugs also signify a problem for trees, even in the winter, Edmonson said. Scale insects, hard- or soft-bodied, are the likeliest insects to bother trees in the winter, he said, and they affect plants like holly and maples.

Spray shrubs or trees with a dormant oil to treat against scale, Edmonson said.
"Some of the soft-bodied scale are white colored," he said.

Edmonson recently offered a pruning class that was a hit, so he's planning another soon, probably in the fall. Call Natural Art at 436-3130 for more information.



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