Archive for Pruning

A New Start to 2019

Hello my gardening friends! I have some big news. I am now being hosted by a new company after having way too many technical difficulties with my previous host. I will open comments and questions again and improve this blog with many new ideas. I hope it will be more helpful and encouraging to my readers. So please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you. (The first time you leave a comment it will go into moderation to make sure you’re not spam, but after that it’s an open forum.) I’d love it if you want to share my posts as well — the more people in discussion, the more tips and ideas! As always, I’ll be here at and for those on Facebook at LisaEarthGirl.

As some of you already know, since my mishap last November, falling from a ladder while working on a tree, breaking my ankle and a rib, I had a bit of a slow start to this year. I was very lucky that I didn’t get hurt worse. (Coincidentally it happened on the same day and hour as our esteemed Justice R.B.G. had a mishap and broke her ribs.) I am back physically, thank goodness, and learned to be extra careful on ladders on windy days! I also would like to warn against leaning a ladder on branches that can sway in the wind! Safety first. Best tip I can give!

Learning a lesson the hard way to be more careful on ladders

The cycle of renewal has happened in a big way here. With all the rain that we had over the last year and a half, the garden is lush with new growth. Everything has sprouted with beautiful, fresh new leaves and lots of flowers everywhere. Many trees and bushes bloomed way out of their normal sequence — some early and some late — but it has been a gorgeous month and a half here in the mid-Atlantic. Vibrant colors everywhere!

Here’s a tip for one of America’s favorite plants, the flowering Azalea: When pruning and feeding, wait until after blooming, but finish before the 4th of July. This gives the plant time to set new buds and new growth before the frosts and freezes of the next winter.

The vivid new growth this spring is everywhere!

Last week I took a field trip with a friend to one of our local State Parks — Green Spring Gardens. We discovered many gardening ideas, and plants that were in full bloom a full month earlier than their usual bloom time! It was a refreshing way to spend the day, and fun to see school children so interested by what they were seeing. Fun for all ages, really! Why not pack a picnic and enjoy a hike at your local park someday soon?

A beautiful day at Green Spring Garden State Park. What a wonderful place to visit, perfect for all ages!

My biggest gardening concern so far this year is for some of my favorite mature bushes and trees to overcome the amount of rain from last year: the pink honeysuckle bush, the stellar cherry blossom tree, cardinal hollies, and the aristocrat pear. Last year’s losses were two prized cyprus bushes that drowned along the fence border garden. The change in climate and a neighbor’s poor drainage have proven deadly. The challenge continues with attempts to combat the excess water. I’ll keep you posted with some remedies to help keep the excess water away.

I always like to echo the colors I already have in the garden in my flower pots by the entrance. This year’s choices are blue salvia, lavander geraniums, and purple lobelia surrounded by variegated ivy. These all do very well in this area.

I’m back in my own garden now, preparing for the season ahead. I’ve almost finished with the mulching, weeding, and trimming back perennials. The grass has turned green again, and that alone makes a great backdrop for everything else. To celebrate the beautiful weather, I planted my annual flowers last week in flower pots and areas that are protected close to the house. In past years we have still had the odd late frost, but this year the long range forecast is showing we are much warmer. I used some of my favorites that do well in my micro climate on the banks of the Potomac — vinca, impatiens, salvia, lobelia and geraniums.

I’d like to start up a new segment on each blog from now on on plant I.D.- I’ll start with one that stumped me for years. I’ll encourage others to join in with plants from your garden.

Just for fun — here’s a plant I.D.- I used to call this the “Mystery Bush”, it looks very similar to many other plants, (wigelia and choke cherry had been previous guesses) but I’ve finally identified it as a pink honeysuckle bush. It started life as a volunteer in a friend’s yard, and she gave me a cutting. It has gorgeous flowers, which then turn to bright red berries, and in the fall gorgeous colored leaves — a true plant for all seasons! It has grown into a beautiful, mature 7 foot tall bush, with an 8 foot diameter. With too much water and rainfall last year, I’m fighting to not lose it this season.

It’s good to finally be back, and I hope that everyone is out and enjoying their corner of the world. Happy Gardening!

Without Further Ado, Please Welcome Spring!

When the ornamental grasses start to shatter apart in the Spring it's time for  their annual "haircut."

When the ornamental grasses start to shatter apart, and make a mess of your yard, it’s time for their annual spring “haircut.”

It seems that spring really is trying to arrive. When the weather has cooperated, I have gotten out in the garden a few times for an hour or so. The tiniest leaf and flower buds on trees are starting to appear, and small daffodil foliage is sprouting up from the frozen ground. Just two days ago, the last of the snow melted away in my yard — I can’t tell you how happy that makes me!

Now, I am in process cutting down last year’s growth on the ornamental grasses, sedum and liriope, as they are ready to re-sprout new growth. I have been spreading leaf compost as I move from one garden area to another.

Once you have trimmed down the old growth, sift through the remainder with gloved hands to remove the loose pieces.

Once you have trimmed down the old growth, sift through the remainder with gloved hands to remove the loose pieces.

I like to give the compost a month to work it’s way into the soil on its own. If it does not, a little spading will incorporate it into the soil, and then I will give the entire yard another layer of shredded mulch. With this exceptionally harsh winter that we’ve just had, I’m expecting a hot and dry summer to follow. This has been the pattern lately — you heard it here first!

When trimming, leave 2-3 inches of old growth to protect the new buds.

When trimming, leave 2-3 inches of old growth to protect the newly emerging buds in the crown of the plant.

Another thing to check on now is the lawn. You may want to send a core sample to be analyzed. This is the time of the year for adding lime, if needed, and also a weed pre-emergent specifically for crabgrass and dandelions. If you apply these right now you will (hopefully) not have any of those nasty weeds!

I’m also looking forward to adding some spring flowers in pots on the deck and front porch to banish the last of the drab from winter. Bring on the green! Soon the bulbs will be blooming, and maybe this year my wisteria will finally flower! What beauties will you plant this season?

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.


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