Gardening March 2020

From Mélie’s Garden

Spring is on the way and it is time to start some spring pruning chores.  I once asked a pruning specialist what was the right time of year to prune and he replied, “Any time your pruning shears are sharp!”  I know that he really meant – if a tree or shrub is damaged, it is a good idea to remove the broken branch quickly. The new cut can heal and there is less chance for the plant to become infected with disease. I have done a bit of research to find the “best” times to go to work on some of the shrubs and trees that grow on Fishers Island.

Mid-February to early March seems to be the best time to prune most trees while they are dormant, especially apple trees. If you prune them in the fall it will stimulate new growth and it can become damaged in the winter months. However, in my research, it seems crabapples should be trimmed in the mid to late summer, so the new growth will be strong enough to winter over.

Late Winter Pruning

  • Apple Trees
  • Blueberry
  • Clematis (Midseason flowering)
  • Grape Vines
  • Roses
  • Viburnum (But not evergreen ones – wait till early or mid-summer)

Early to Mid Spring

  • Buddleia – Butterfly Bush
  • Hydrangea (Remove old wood and cut back new wood one third to strong healthy Buds)
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Lavender
  • Rose

Mid to Late Spring

  • Taxus – English Yew

Late Spring

  • Flowering Quince – Chaenomeles
  • Orange Blossom – Choisya
  • Prunus – Flowering cherry
  • Shadbush – Amelanchier

Early Summer

  • Evergreen Viburnum
  • Forsythia
  • Redbud – Cercis
  • Spiraea

Mid Summer

  • Lilac
  • Magnolia
  • Rhododendron
  • Weigela
  • Wisteria

Late Summer

  • Climbing Hydrangea
  • Crab Apple – Malus
  • Mock Orange – Philadelphus
  • Rosemary

Early to Mid Fall

  • Climbing Rose

This is just a guideline – it is always good to check with a professional horticulturalist before you make that first cut if you are unsure of what to do. Significant storm damage, if it occurs, will throw out all the rules and often-immediate measures need to be taken to save the injured tree or shrub.

Last month I wrote about seeing the architecture in Tom Armstrong’s garden during the winter and since then I have heard that garden writer Barbara Robinson has devoted a chapter to Tom in her new book, Heroes of Horticulture: Americans Who Transformed The Landscape. I am eagerly awaiting its delivery!

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