Friday, February 26, 2010

Dormant Pruning

Good friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited sends out some very nice gardening information and this recent post came to my attention and I thought I would pass it on to you. This is extremely topical and VERY good advice for us gardeners in Skillin's Country. Plants Unlimited is a terrific garden center based in Rockport Maine. Hammon and I talk quite often and I always learn something about gardening and garden center business when we do speak. I hope he benefits some as well. Plants Unlimited is always worth a visit and they can be found at and also at 629 Commercial Street (Route 1) in Rockport ME.

The folks at Plants Unlimited recently sent out some very information about dormant or winter pruning. I will post these in just a second but I also want to give you a link a Garden Log post last year courtesy of Plants Unlimited that covered very well some pruning techniques. I think that post matches up well with what we bring you today!

Lastly we will be holding a terrific Pruning for a Purpose workshop (free of charge) on March 20 at Skillin's Brunswick and Cumberland at 10 AM and 2 PM and March 27 at Skillin's Falmouth (also 10 AM and 2 PM). If you would like to attend shoot us a note at and we will sign you up!

Here is what we have to say today about dormant or winter pruning, courtesy of Plants Unlimited:

"This is a great time to prune now those woody landscape plants that bloom on current season's wood while dormant... Pruning in late winter, just before spring growth starts, leaves fresh wounds exposed for only a short length of time before new growth begins the wound sealing process. Another advantage of dormant pruning is that it’s easier to make pruning decisions without leaves obscuring plant branch structure. Look over your plants now and remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree, sprouts growing at or near the base of the tree trunk and crossed branches.Pruning at the proper time can avoid certain disease and physiological problems.

Some of the common shrubs you prune while dormant include glossy abelia, barberries, blue mist (Caryopteris), summersweet, smokebush, spirea, cotoneasters, and late viburnums (such as blackhaw and American cranberry bush). Depending on how high you want these to grow, you can prune them back to as much as above the first pair of buds above the soil.

Trees and shrubs that bloom early in the growing season on last year’s growth should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming--NOT NOW! Following are a few plants you don't want to prune now!

apricot                   forsythia                     Juneberry                       rhododendron

azalea                    flowering plum            lilac

chokeberry            ornamental cherry       magnolia

chokecherry          daphne                       early blooming spirea

Shrubs that bloom on the previous season's wood should be pruned after they bloom in late spring or early summer. Examples of those that you should prune after bloom are lilacs, forsythia, rhododendrons, and early viburnums. Prune these right after they bloom because they will then start forming flower buds for the following year. "Why didn't my shrubs bloom this year?"(very common question!) Pruning these during summer or fall will cut off next year's flowers. You often see this with forsythia, which grow rampant after they flower and gardeners "shape" after or late into the growing season.

Of course broken branches can be pruned off now in winter.

Plants Unlimited goes on to talk about pruning fruit trees and grapes this time of year:

"Prune fruit trees and grapes in late February or early March after the worst of the winter cold is passed but before spring growth begins. Grapes pruned very late in the season usually start spring growth slightly later than those pruned mid-dormancy. Such a delay in bud break may be desirable in frost prone areas.

Prune apple trees, including flowering crabapples, mountain ash, hawthorns and shrub cotoneasters in late winter (February-early April). Spring or summer pruning increases chances for infection and spread of the bacterial disease fireblight. Autumn or early winter pruning is more likely to result in drying and die-back at pruning sites."

Let us know at or any Skillin's location (phone numbers listed at if you have any pruning questions!

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