It’s that time of the year when most landscapers in The Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina have begun their winter ritual’s. They’re finishing the last bit of cleaning of ornamental beds, cutting back ornamental grasses and other general winter pruning jobs. Most homeowners see this happening at their office buildings or shopping centers and are pretty quick to follow it themselves if they don’t already have a service. Now, before I get into what not to do, lets touch on a few things that you can do in your landscape and plant’s that are highly beneficial to ensure a healthy this spring season.
With Spring right around the corner, February is a great month to start preparing your landscape for the spring flush. We’ll skip your trees for now and talk about your shrubs. With the exception of any early bloomers like azaleas, this is a great time to cut them back. If they have out grown their area, most foundation plants such as hollies, nandina, hawthorn and fall blooming camellias can be cut hard if done correctly (this may be a good job for a professional if your unsure).
Remember, the proper way to prune most plant’s are to cut them from the inside, back to the trunk. Start by removing crossing branches, branches growing crooked or contrary to the desired shape of the plant. This will greatly reduce the height while maintaining the structural integrity and correct form of the plant – remember meatballs come in a can! While the easy way is to use gas power shears, this will actually do more damage to the plant by causing the plant to sprout growth in a tight pattern and reduce the sunlight to the center of the plant.
Now that you have your shrubs back in shape lets tackle your perennials and grasses. First, cut all of your ornamental grasses such as your pampas grass, miscanthus and liriope to the “clump”. Next, gently cut back any other perennials you have and clean out any dead stalks left from last summer. Once you’ve gotten the debris out, put down a fresh layer of pine needles or mulch to protect them and you are ready for spring.
I saved this for last because like the proverbial “dead horse,” I preach this every year, and if one person will stop murdering their crape myrtles I will feel I have done some good! Now, we have all seen them, and while I highlight the crape myrtle, this applies to any tree in your landscape. Topping is not an approved practice; just because you saw a “landscaper” do it, doesn’t make it right!
When properly pruning a tree:
1) remove the crossing branches
2) remove branches growing down or growing to the inside of the tree
3) Remove any trunks growing to the inside leaving a 3-4 trunk structure
4) Cut the tips of the remaining branches, removing nothing larger around than a pencil (tip: chainsaw not required here)
Follow these basic tips and I promise your tree’s will thank you and perform much better. If you’re unsure, give a professional a call and if they bring a chainsaw, just say no thanks! Till next time!