Pleasant Landscapes Newsletter - January 2010
Understanding Winter Pruning
As the winter months roll in
people often wonder what their lawn maintenance company will be
doing for their yard during the off-season. I can tell you from
personal experience that it takes more effort to maintain a yard
during the winter months than the summer. Hard to believe? It's
true enough that the grass does not grow, but weeds continue to
grow. Bushes, depending upon the type, needs some type of care,
and cleaning up leaves and branches takes three times longer to
remove than just cutting the grass. Some of the winter pruning
techniques are perennial flowers. Most summer blooming
perennials and flowers go dormant during the winter. Examples of
these are Lantana, Hydrangea, and ornamental grasses.
Lantana can often spread beyond it's intended area. Winter time is a great time to cut back your Lantana. You may even need to cut it down to the stub if it is a mature plant that is exceeding it's intended boundaries in the summer. I often try to leave enough nub showing so that once spring arrives I don't mistake it for a weed. The opposite side of this would be when I have newly planted Lantana or perennials that have not fully grown into the intended area. In this case no pruning would be done and the plant would continue to grow in girth or width to fill in the area.
Hydrangeas have the same tendency as the Lantana. Over time they too outgrow their space and need to be cut back being sure to leave a nub you can see in the spring time. If you want it to continue to grow leave it alone or lightly snip it on the ends to promote branching.
Ornamental grasses are a little more tricky. It's been a long tradition to cut back pampas grasses which usually provides greener growth in the summer. This is especially true for wind whipped or browned pampas grass. The problem is that when you prune back a pampas grass you are actually cutting off the tips that have the flower thus removing some winter color. I feel that for small to medium size pampas grasses it is sometimes best to leave them alone. If they are extremely large they do need taming. We personally use a chain saw to prune them. In my opinion, the smaller ornamental grasses such as Miscanthus, Sweet Grass, Breeze Grass and Sea Oat should really never be cut back as their tassels are the pretty winter flowers. Sweet Grass in particular is so slow to recover that even years later you can tell where it was pruned. The brownish foliage is part of this type plant.
Evergreens and flowering shrubs: flowering shrubs are getting ready to bloom within the next three months and are creating the buds that will produce these flowers. While pruning these shrubs will not keep them from flowering (you may lose some of the intensity of the flowers). Common varieties of this type plant are Azaleas and Camellias. With non-flowering evergreens the winter time is a good time to prune them 6-8" below where you want them to actually be. Then when the new growth in the Spring comes out your plant will be fuller, thicker and greener than it was the year prior. Even if it looks branchy after the initial pruning. If you have any pruning questions please feel free to contact me.