Monday, February 7, 2011


PRUNE DECIDUOUS TREES. This is actually a January chore but with this record breaking cold we have been preoccupied with freezing pipes, waiting for plumbers, hauling water from our "oh so sweet" neighbors, power outages and trying to keep a fire going. This high desert is nothing if not unpredictable. So it is the time of year (you are not too late) to evaluate your deciduous fruit and shade trees and see what, if any, pruning needs to be done. It is easy to see the shape of your trees when they are void of leaves. Pruning stimulates growth but this growth will be delayed until it warms in spring. Be sure that you have sharp clean pruning tools so that your cuts are precise and will callous over naturally. You will want to first remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches. Then prune off any limbs that are crossing, rubbing or heading toward the center. When removing a branch always cut it back to a place of active growth. This will be the trunk, another branch or a bud facing in a desirable direction.  Always prune slightly in front of the branch collar and these cuts will heal over. Never leave stubs as they will die back to a place of active growth inviting disease.  Removing any branches that are not heading up and/or out will allow air and sunlight to penetrate the center of your trees which increases fruit and flower production while decreasing insects and diseases. NEVER TOP A TREE!!!! A topped tree will either die because it can no longer supply itself with food or produce dangerous, ugly, weak growth. See The Mutilation of Trees in Grant County. Always plant  a tree that will not outgrow the space provided for it. Keep in mind that pruning is done to benefit the health and aesthetics of the tree. It is not something that should be done automatically every year.
PRUNE SUMMER FLOWERING SHRUBS AND VINES. In general, summer flowering shrubs and vines should be pruned this time of year. Again evaluate these plants individually to see if any pruning needs to be done. Buddleja (Butterfly Bush) does not need to be pruned until it has been in the ground at least 2 years. After that thin it by removing 1/3 of the oldest, woodiest growth all the way to the ground. This practice will encourage new growth and since Butterfly Bushes bloom on new wood this will improve flowering. Caryopteris (Blue Mist Spiraea) blooms on current season's wood as well. Cut it back to 1' and lightly prune after flowering to encourage another bloom. Cotoneasters  need little pruning just an occasional shaping. Photinia (Red Tip) can be shaped now. If you are using it as a hedge you can even it off or as an accent shrub prune any crossing, rubbing, dead branches all the way back. Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon) should have the old, weak, dead wood thinned out and to promote larger flowers cut back the previuos year's growth to 2 buds. Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo) will stay full and bushy if you cut any tall leafless canes all the way to the ground. Spiraea should have the older, woody braches thinned out. Most vines that flower in summer such as Campsis (Trumpet Vine), Polygonum (Silver Lace Vine) and Parthenocissus (Virginia Creeper) can be thinned and have the dead or weak wood removed. These are a few of the more popular summer flowering shrubs and vines. Spring flowering shrubs and vines should generally be pruned after flowering. Roses should not be pruned until the first few leaf buds begin to break in spring, usually late March. Prune the woody Salvias (Sage) after new growth starts in spring by cutting them back to active growth. If you have specific questions about pruning please leave a comment or email me at

Last but not least for those of you that read last month's entry about the winter sustainability of pansies:
4 degrees ok...minus 8...not so much