Gail's Gardens-Summer Pruning - August 2011
Road Trip! My husband and I enjoyed a delightful drive to the town of Tomales on a lovely day last week. We stopped at the bakery for some yummy berry tarts and coffee, and wandered the quiet streets enjoying the gardens and old houses. We ended up at one of my favorite nurseries: Mostly Natives. They had lots of veggies on sale and free heirloom tomato plants, so Mike was in heaven! They have an excellent selection of sages, ceanothus, manzanita, artemesia, and penstemon, among other native plants too numerous to name: most available in 4” or 1 gallon sizes. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, able to suggest the appropriate plant for any situation. Check out their excellent website www.mostlynatives.com which includes their planting guides: lists of plants for different situations, including gopher resistant plants! Then stop by for a visit: open every day except Monday & Tuesday.
I guess I’m a bit odd, but I enjoy pruning! Wandering through the garden on a warm summer evening with pruners in hand allows me time to unwind and stretch out after a day at the computer. The long yellow evening light is calming, and I enjoy the chance to get up close to my flowers.
Of course, you know about deadheading your roses now to encourage repeat blooming, but did you know you don’t have to cut each flower individually? Just take your long-bladed shears and cut the entire plant back! Research by the Royal Horticultural Society has shown that roses respond just as well to this type of mass pruning as they do to the tedious, old-fashioned “cut back each stem to 5 leaves” technique. Pruning with shears is especially useful on ground-cover and climbing roses.
This is also the time to prune your wisteria. An established wisteria needs a firm hand: throughout the summer, cut back the rapidly growing whip-like shots to 6” from the main trunk: this will result in more flowering next spring, and will prevent your wisteria from taking over the neighborhood!
I also like to prune my rosemary now, cutting back hard any branches that are too long and leggy: they will re-grow from old wood. If you grow the Spanish lavender ‘Otto Quast’ (the one with the ‘rabbit ear’ type bloom), please prune it back by at least 1/3 now: you will enjoy a second bloom later in the summer and keep the plant looking compact and attractive instead of leggy. (Wait until the fall to prune your English lavenders).
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Mother Nature can teach us so many lessons in the garden: I have learned a lesson in patience this year! Five years ago I planted a purple-flowered clematis ‘Jackmanii’: a clematis reputed to be vigorous and easy to grow. I planted it in what I thought was the perfect spot: roots in the shade, head in the sun, with an arbor to climb on. I carefully provided regular water and good compost, and pruned it as directed each year. Every summer I anxiously anticipated those lovely purple flowers, but after 3 years it was still only 3 feet tall with 1 or 2 flowers per season! Very discouraged, I decided to ignore it completely last year…suddenly this summer it is 10 feet tall and wide, spreading masses of flowers over the arbor and into the surrounding trees! Delightful! I think I’ll just keep ignoring it for a couple more years. The lesson? Many plants take a longer time to become established than we expect: if we provide basic good care, they will eventually come into their own.