Tag Archive for pruning

Tips on Mid-Summer Evergreen Pruning

BEFORE picture- holly has overtaken the front garden. Time to reclaim!

BEFORE picture- holly has overtaken the front garden. Time to reclaim!

Wow! What a wet summer we have had this year. I can’t remember a time when everything was so green in July. Pruning in the middle of summer is not something that I would normally recommend for most plants, but some, like the holly bushes, have grown to extremes in the wet season we have been experiencing. I have several in my garden that were planted by the builder 30+ years ago. These were unfortunately planted too close to the house and front porch to let them grow to their natural size, so they require a pruning 4 or 5 times a year to keep them in check. (I had actually cut them down to the ground when we first purchased the house because they were so out of control. They regenerated in about a year!) The good news is that if you know the proper way to prune them, hollies can be terrific foundation plants and showy all year. Here’s how-

Always check for bird's nests before pruning or spraying.

Always check for bird nests before pruning or spraying.


First, always inspect the interior closely. I have birds that build nests in mine, and I don’t want to just start trimming away! The birds love evergreen bushes for nests, so always check each bush before pruning or spraying.

I always prune with shears. They create a nice clean cut, and create a more natural look.

Always prune with shears. They create  a more natural look than a hedge trimmer. The new leaves are pretty soft, but wear gloves if you are working with the old growth — it can get very sharp!


Next, set the height that you want. In my case, I have a bush on either side of my front door and want them to match, so I use a mortar line in the brick as my guide to determine where to make that first cut. Using sharp pruners, make a cut just above a leaf to establish the height.


Then determine how wide the bush should be, and what sort of shape you want.  I like a more natural look, so I chose a cone shape. If you have trouble keeping the shape, a handy tip is to tie a string from top to bottom to use as a cutting guide moving it around the bottom edge as you go. I don’t like the look of anything too crisply trimmed; I prefer a more fringe-like or loose shape. I then trim up the sides to the top being careful not to trim the leaves in half. They will brown and look unhealthy if you do. For that reason, never use a hedge trimmer — EVER! Sharp pruning shears are the right tool for this job.

Always try to leave some "breathing room" behind your foundation plantings for air circulation as well as security.

Always try to leave some “breathing room” behind your foundation plantings for air circulation as well as security.





Once you have gotten the basic shape, trim back every third branch several inches inside the bush. This will encourage lots of leaves to grow throughout the plant, not just on the tips. It will also allow air circulation and light to get inside the plant, lessening the chances of disease and insects. One final step is to make sure that you have pruned far enough back from the walls of your house. Try to keep all bushes at least a 12 to 18 inches away from your house to allow some breathing space, and also trimmed away from under windows for views and security.

Here is the "After" picture. Nice fringe-like texture, with branches full of leaves makes for a healthy Holly.

Here is the “After” picture. Nice fringe-like texture, with branches full of leaves makes for a healthy holly.

When shaping boxwood trim out the entire branch all the way to the base. It will encourage healthy new growth from the center of the plant.

When shaping boxwood trim out the entire branch all the way to the base. It will encourage healthy new growth from the center of the plant.



This is also a good time to give attention to the new growth on boxwoods. Just trimming the really heavy branches, by removing them down to the base of the branch, is all that is needed. This is something I do only about every other year because they are fairly slow growing. For the juniper and euonymus, I only trim the branches that have grown too far out of bounds right now; they will get a more substantial shaping when the weather cools.


I hope you are having a wonderful summer in your garden! Let me know what is your favorite plant this growing season — I’d love to hear! I will leave you with my favorite right now: a view of my daylilly garden in full bloom.

Happy Summer! A view of my daylilly garden.

My daylilly garden in bloom right now.


Mid Summer Garden Rescue

The poor garden this summer! Extreme heat, no rain, blazing sun, then sudden torrential storms with incredible winds. All this and more have left gardens in a sad state. It’s time for a rescue. Here’s my list of fixes and tips to help reclaim their health and beauty.

Trim out all dead and diseased branches on bushes and trees. If left alone this could attract insets and/or further spread the disease.

Start by clipping out dead branches on bushes and trees. Next (depending on how much is affected), trim out the bad parts, or completely cut back perennials as well as annuals. Make sure to collect and recycle your trimmings. In the humidity which comes with late summer, it is easy for fungus and insects to infect large clippings on the ground. Adding them to a compost pile will heat them so this doesn’t happen. In my yard, I am completely cutting back the foliage on all of the daylilly, yarrow, iris, and lamb’s ears, which will resprout fresh new foliage and look terrific until frost.

I will trim out many small branches on the Japanese hollies and junipers, and a significant number of dogwood limbs, too.

I suggest raking through the mulch to make sure that it has not compacted too much, and if you are in a drought area, start watering your foundation bushes with a soaker hose if you haven’t already.

When your lawn goes into a dormant state due to severely high temperatures combined with a drought, it is best to wait until temperatures have receded before resuming watering and/or feeding.

The grass in the yard has gone completely dormant here due to the lack of rain and the heat. Rather than stress it by trying to force it to grow, I will let nature tell me when it’s time to regenerate. I must say that in all the years I’ve been gardening, I don’t remember a year that has stressed the grass so much. I caution against adding any mid-season fertilizer this year. It may help to lightly add a 1/2 inch of compost to the lawn to help protect the roots. Until the temperatures are back below the 90′s I am wary of doing much else. As soon as the temperatures are lower I will start watering unless we receive significant rainfall.

The flowers that I have in pots this year are tried and true. I planted only geraniums, which I know to be more drought tolerant than many other flowers. Tip: plant two pots for every one that you need in an exposed focal area like the front door. Put one pot on the front porch and one in a less exposed area (under the deck in my case). Rotate them back and forth each week. That way they are given a break from the harshness of the weather extremes and are able to stay healthy. Also be sure to turn your pots at least 1/4 rotation each week, so that they don’t grow crookedly towards the sun. This is especially true if you have potted evergreens that you display year round.

This is an example of "sucker" branches. They are ugly and can actually draw the nutrients out of the tree if left alone. It is best to keep them trimmed out.

Many trees will develop “sucker” shoots from the trunks or branches this time of year. They are very unattractive and provide no benefit to the tree, and they can actually harm the tree if left alone. I like to take a sharp pruner and trim them out. You may need to check every month or two for a re-occurrence.

This is also the perfect time to trim back wisteria. (Remember January and July for hard pruning on wisteria.) Mine grows as much as 3 to 4 feet in a week, so I do lots of mini-prunings to keep it in shape. If you are growing chrysanthemum or sedum, this is also the last time for pruning back the height before blooming. I like to take mine down by a third. By doing that you will have many more blooms on a much stronger, more compact plant which will be less prone to splitting open in the rain.

I hope your yards and gardens are surviving this hot, dry summer. If you have any tips you would like to share on this subject, send them along and I’ll be sure to print them. Here’s looking forward to some healthy green color coming back!