Smell Like Dirt

In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood

Late Winter Pruning

If you haven’t already, now is the time to prune those bushes and shrubs that call for “late winter” pruning. Butterfly bushes, hollies, boxwoods, pompas grass, camelias— if you have any of these in your gardens, now is the time to give them a gentle pruning or whack them back drastically, whatever they need. But be careful you are not trimming anything that will be blooming soon. Azaleas, rhododendrons, gardenias and spirea, for example should be shaped AFTER they bloom this spring and summer. If you trim azaleas or rhodies now, you will be cutting off all of this years blooms, which they set last fall. Wait until after they bloom but before July 1 to shape them up (if you must….I like the natural form of both plants the best) Hydrangeas are an entirely different matter. Some species bloom on old wood and shouldn’t be trimmed now and some bloom on new wood and would benefit from a good pruning, so make sure you know which type you have and do some research before grabbing those loppers! And while you are in the yard trimming, look up and take a gander at your tree limbs before the leaves start reappearing. Now is a great time to take note of limbs that might have been damaged this winter or are already dead and schedule a professional to come out and remove them, if necessary. Its too early to start planting but the days are getting longer and there are plenty of signs that spring is just around the corner, so take this opportunity to get outside and putter in your garden!


  ericlevine wrote @

Carol, I really liked this article on when to prune. In fact, I really like your entire website.Please give me a call at work if you are free.

  Mary J. Bass wrote @

I have a camelia that blooms in the fall and keeps going till it gets really cold.Now it’s about 20yrs. old and we have had to brace it up after a storm.It’s too close to the house and we also plan to do a little addition so it will have to be moved.I’m thinking this is the time to prune it and I need know how much I can take off as not to damage it,I know it probally won’t bloom the next season,at least.That is ok but can I take it down to the main trunk.The root ball will be so big it’ll be hard to handle.It sits in a NE corner now and I have a place in the same area to put it.Any info you can give me will be appreciated.Thank you for your time,MJB

  smelllikedirt wrote @

Thanks for your question, Mary. Moving that old camelia will be quite a chore. I would not take it down all the way to the trunk. With camelias, you normally shouldn’t take more than a third of the bush off at one time, but since you are moving it, you could risk taking off half of the it. Another thing that you could do to prepare the bush for transplanting is a couple of weeks prior to moving it, take your shovel and go around the bush and cut thru the roots just as if you were going to move it but just let it sit there. Doing it a couple of weeks prior to moving it will allow it to adjust to the shock of having its roots cut before it gets taken out of the ground. The best time for transplanting is in the fall, but if you can’t wait, the sooner the better. Good Luck and let me know how it goes!

  kimberly wrote @

I have a couple of camellias that I have also never pruned, probably 15 years old or more. I know that I need to wait until the blooms are off, which will be soon, but is there a way to make them thicker and not so spindly? One is moreso than the other. I’m assuming a pair of hand nippers will work, and is there a specific place on the branch like when you prune roses?

  smelllikedirt wrote @

Camelias respond well to trimming and by taking off a bit (no more than 1/3 of the total plant) you can encourage it to become fuller. You are right, don’t trim until after it has finished blooming. Thanks for the comment and good luck!

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