As you can see, carefully cutting away all the old fronds from ferns will allow the new ones to grow lush. (Andrew May/for Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: A picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to pruning

WHILE I’VE BEEN severely trimming down various plants these past few weeks, the gasps (along with horrified looks from homeowners and neighbors alike) have been quite noticeable.

Then on Wednesday morning, this “rant” appeared in The Seattle Times: “Rant to the landscapers who have no clue about pruning, butchering trees and shrubs to keep them small.”

First, let me make clear that many people “butcher” their plants in hideous ways.

As a whole, America does a very poor job of properly pruning its plants.

A course or two in pruning, a carefully read book on the subject or a visit to Plant Amnesty’s web page ( would all be excellent choices in learning to prune not only better but correctly as well.

But sometimes a real good “haircut” is exactly what is needed, preferred and dictated for a healthy, lush plant.

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, let me do a “Pictionary” form of enhancing my column this week to illustrate how certain plants should be dealt with this time of year.

Your ferns are all-important plants to cut back now, removing all fronds (i.e., leaves) so as to allow new fronds to emerge.

Roses of all manner need to be trimmed back severely, especially climbers and shrub roses, or they turn into huge wads and dead and living stems.

Your hydrangeas that bloom on new wood need to go down almost to the ground level, as well as colored stemmed dogwoods and mounding spiraea.

Vines, like herbaceous clematis, honeysuckle and potato vine, all need a military haircut to a mere 2 to 3 feet.

Now, the great thing about this prune is the numerous advantages this cut provides.

The plant will bloom more than if not done because these plants bloom on new wood and this cut produces all new wood.

The foliage looks far better because it, too, is rejuvenated, not old and wornout.

The shape of the plant is greatly improved and brought back in line with the surrounding area.

Make sure you cultivate the soil around the plant when done, fertilize, water in well and mulch because a whole lot of growth will be occurring.

Now, go look at this picture and get inspired.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood are one of the most commonly overlooked plants for a severe prune. Every year, they should come down to just a node or two, but not more than three to five above the ground. Here’s a before shot. (Andrew May/Peninsula Daily News)

Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood are one of the most commonly overlooked plants for a severe prune. Every year, they should come down to just a node or two, but not more than three to five above the ground. Here’s an after shot of the prune. (Andrew May/Peninsula Daily News)

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