Thursday, May 06, 2010

Pruning Time For Beautiful Flowers

Pruning trees, shrubs and clematis is a garden art form.  We worry so much about taking so much off that the plant will look unsightly. Unfortunately, the opposite is true - not enough pruning promotes an unhappy plant.

I see so many beautiful specimens around me that have been pruned at the wrong time sans blooms the following year, or not pruned at all with a few paltry blooms at the top of the shrub.

As soon as your lilac, magnolia, viburnum, forsythia, bridal wreath have bloomed in the spring, prune, shaping the top of the shrub and removing one third of the old growth each year to the bottom of the shrub.  This has to be done pretty quickly as the shrubs begin to set flowers for the following year.  One year, I waited too long to prune the Magnolia which hung over the walkway and I had very few flowers the following spring.  I have already trimmed back my Viburnum Carlesi.  Hydrangeas have pruning requirements also, some growing on old and new wood, some growing only on old wood.  I happen to have the types that I can cut down quite a bit each year and get beautiful new blooms the following summer and late summer. 

My Hydrangeas are Endless Summer, Unique and Limelight.  I shape my Limelight in a semi-circle when I prune and it is a gorgeous specimen come August.  Unique., I cut down to about two feet and it is spectacular in the late summer.  With Endless Summer I wait to see how much growth is coming and then trim whatever is not viable.

Don't be afraid to heavily prune damaged or overgrown flowering trees.  My daughter's Crabapple is over fifty years old and we pruned it heavily last year because it had more suckers than anything else.  I pruned my Pagoda Dogwood because it had been so heavily damaged by the Cicadas and grew in all different directions.  Both trees have had the best blooms ever!

I think I have finally figured out my Little Henry's Garnet (Sweetspire)- tons of little beginning flowers this year.  In one of my previous posts I noted that I had to bring out the big guns for this shrub and feed it a systemic.  I noticed an improvement almost instantly.  I also cut it down to about 12" high.  I will do the same this year after it blooms and see if this is the answer to a very finicky shrub for the six plus years that I have tried to grow it.

Clematis, we all learn the hard way with this lovely plant, meaning if you cut it down in the spring and it is not a type 3, you will get very few blooms or they will be very small.  I went through this many years paying no attention to the different types.  Guess what, type 3 is easy, but some beautiful blooms are passed up if we don't also try the type 1 and type 2.  It is a challenge remembering which is which.  One final note, you have to fertilize if you want maximum bloom, acid based for Hydrangeas and other acid loving shrubs, general fertilizer for others, equal numbers if possible 5-5-5 or 10-10-10, not too high in nitrogen or it will again cut down on the blooms


beckie said...

Eileen, thanks for all the info. I did prune my lilacs last year and they were gorgeous this year. Although to be fair, lilacs everywhere here were especially pretty. The one I have in my header is taller than the garage roof-I am wanting to cut the top way back this year to try to promote more growth down lower. Is this a good idea??

Love the crabapple tree and the shape your magnolia.

joey said...

Wow, that is one happy dogwood, Eileen!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Beckie,

Yes, you can cut the top back now and also remove some of the interior growth, not more than one third.

I am sorry to say the shape of my Star Magnolia is not natural, but out of necessity because it is next to a pathway. However, it does bloom in a very pleasing manner and shape in the spring.


Abbie said...

Clematis drives me crazy! I can never remember how I am to treat each of my individual plants....I should keep a record or map.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Abbie, I know,that's why I love those type 3s. However, I fall in love with the huge flowers on the type 2s.


LC said...

That's a lovely pagoda dogwood... mine are all smaller as I cut them back to the ground due to that disease that causes the branches to turn golden (I don't recall the name just now) I suspect it's related to conditions including dryness. The plants seem to come back just fine after a while... Larry

garden girl said...

beautiful shrubs in your garden Eileen! I'm lusting after a Pagoda dogwood - one of these years I'll finally get one.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Oh Larry, I hope mine does not get this disease as it is my only tree in the back garden. Like I said, the Cicadas did it in a few years ago and finally last year I just cut out every deformed branch I could find and it rewarded me with glorious blooms this year.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Garden Girl,

Yes, it has a great shape and is so beautiful this year.


Becca's Dirt said...

Big and beautiful bridal wreath. It is so full. And the crabapple tree is so pretty. You have a lot going on there. Everything is springing to life.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Becca,

I wish the Bridal Wreath was mine, but it is so close to my yard I just think of it as mine.


noel said...


very nice post, i love the dogwood photos, its beautiful

thanks for sharing today!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Thank you Noel,

It is so beautiful this year, but guess what, we are expecting a frost tomorrow night. It is late for us to experience this, but no totally unusual. I am running around with plastic bags covering up all of the tender annuals.


. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

When we bought our new-old house, the back third of the garden was choked by vines. When I cut them away, I discovered two sad, leggy lilac bushes. They bloomed this spring, and are putting out new growth. I held off pruning this year, because I figured they needed photosynthesis. I'll probably prune them next spring.

Your plants are splendid.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Thanks Lisa and Robb. Good luck with those lilacs you rescued.