Get Your Garden Ready

Spring is officially here and I have been getting lots of questions from people who are anxious to work in their yards.   Pruning trees and shrubs can be one of the most daunting tasks we do in the garden. From the best tools to use to the proper place to cut, it can all be very overwhelming. Here are a few pointers for successful pruning…

  • Now is a great time to get out in your yard and prune just about everything except early spring blooming shrubs and oak trees, as pruning them now can make oaks more susceptible to certain diseases. By pruning just before spring growth starts, the fresh wounds are exposed for only a short length of time before new growth begins the wound sealing process.
  • Determine when the shrub you are considering pruning typically blooms. Early blooming shrubs and trees such as Rhododendrons, Weigelas, Forsythias, Lilacs and Crabapples should be avoided until after they bloom. Then within approximately one month after that initial bloom, prune the spent blooms off and shape as needed.
  • You can choose to prune up to one-third of the overall size of a plant back without stressing it too much.
  • Plants with marginally hardy woody stems, such as roses, some hydrangeas, and clematis, should be pruned back to where the stems are green.
  • Prune any rubbing or crossing branches on young trees to encourage a healthy form long term. Remove any suckers that emerge near the base of the trunk.  Gradually remove too low branches near the bottom of the canopy as new taller growth appears.
  • As plants become tired and overgrown, it can rejuvenate them to do some aggressive pruning. Choose up to one-third of the oldest, thickest stems and remove them right off of the ground. I often use my Sawzall to do this job as I can get in some tighter spots with it. Do this each year until there are no longer any thick, overgrown trunks left.
  • Be sure to use clean, well sharpened pruners to make any cuts.  Dip the blades in a bleach solution in between cuts to ensure that you do not spread disease by accident.
  • Use anvil pruners for cutting out dead wood as they crush the stems and choose bypass pruners for green, live growth.
  • Consider applying a dormant oil spray to trees and shrubs that are more prone to insect damage now to protect them all summer long.

With the growing popularity of dwarf shrubs available, note that not all plants will require regular, if any, pruning and in doing so, you can really take away from the overall natural habit of those shrubs.  If you have any specific pruning questions, feel free to stop by the garden center and talk to one of our knowledgeable garden team members or email me at

Happy Pruning!