Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pruning in the Gloom

Wow, it's been incredibly gloomy, dark, overcast, cold and rainy this May. A nice day here and there and then more gray.

I've been doing some pruning out in the gloom of day.

Every winter I cut back the big rangy smokebush above the stone wall at the top of the driveway. I cut it back to a stump just a foot above the ground, and it comes back by the end of May all full and leafy.

Cotinus coggygria 'Grace'

But by summer it's always a monster, with long, arching, out of control stems. Gardeners advise doing a second cut back in late May, right when it is the size mine is now. They advise cutting each new stem back by a third, and that will help the plant send up more vertical shoots, and perhaps somewhat shorter branches.

This is the first year I've taken that advice. I went out on a damp dark day and snipped each new shoot back by a third. After cutting back, it didn't really look any smaller, but maybe a bit tidier. By cutting off the new tips I lost the translucent look of the foliage, which is a feature of 'Grace' smokebush. We'll see now if this effort keeps it more upright and shorter in summer.

It doesn't look much different after snipping back.

I'm getting help with pruning from the deer. All the garden phlox has been snipped off, every last stem. Those white dots in the greenery show the damage to each stem.

Chomped and chomped.

Between the deer damage and the gray skies, it gets discouraging. Jim listened to me wail about it, then started googling "land mines for home use" and "venison recipes." His efforts do help.

Should I cut out all the dead parts of this poor shrub? Rose of Sharon is very late to leaf out, but there are shoots coming up nice and leafy from below, yet a lot of dieback all through the canopy.

Hibiscus syriacus 'White Chiffon'

There are no buds ready to open at all in those browned branches. With the shoots coming up lower on the shrub, I think I can severely lop off everything that's not leafing out and let the new shoots take over. I don't think you can kill a Rose of Sharon.

That will be my next gloomy pruning job to do.


  1. Ugh, deer. They've caused hundreds of dollars of damage in my garden.the only helpful thing they ate was a galvanized trough of pansies-- because they were trimmed sy severely, they haven't gotten leggy.

    1. So the deer are good for something -- even if it's just just keeping pansies well trimmed!