Garden Thoughts for March
This time of year, we all seem to get an urge to get out into the garden and
give it a good cleanup. We're tired of looking at all the tattered remains
of last years growth, and want to charge in with pruners and saws blazing
and strip everything down to the bare bones.
Before you prune the daylights out of every shrub and climber in sight, take
a minute to think things through. In general, it's fine to do a major
pruning on shrubs than bloom in June or later. Things like summer clematis,
roses, buddliea, fuchsia and hydrangea usually carry their blooms at the end
of this year's growth, so a severe pruning will delay the onset of bloom,
but the plant will still look good by the end of the summer. Some clematis
in fact need to be pruned right to the soil line so that they don't overgrow
their supports. C. Etoile Violette, one of my favorites, falls in this
category. It will make 20 feet of new growth by midsummer, and in most
situations you don't want your flowers any higher off the ground than that!
A related Clematis, C. Plena Purpurea, that I have growing up to flower on
my 2nd storey deck would also normally be pruned to the ground each spring,
but since it only grows 10 feet or so in a season, I prune it to 8 feet
above the ground.
Again, generally speaking, most shrubs and climbers that bloom before May
put out their flowers on old growth, so are best pruned after they finish
blooming and only as much as is necessary to keep in shape. This category
includes clematis like C. alpina (the one with early sky blue bells),
forsythia, lilac, wild roses, and weigela. Other plants that could be
treated in this manner are Clematis Montana, and any roses that you want to
I hope this article will cause a few of you to stop and think for a moment
before attacking your spring cleanup. It's more work to base your pruning
decisions on a knowledge of each individual plant's growth habits, in
combination with your desired goals, but the results will speak for
Karen Barber is an architectural and landscape designer in Campbell River.
Her company is Madrona Design,
which sponsors this Gardening in Campbell River webpage.
Check out her site by clicking on the button below...