How to Prune

Stop! Don’t Prune That Grass (How to Prune Ornamental Grasses Right)

January 28, 2014 6 comments

(Article originally appeared in Fine Gardening Magazine) Most of us know what to do with our big grasses that go dormant each winter: Grab a bungee cord, tie the grass up, and use an electric hedge trimmer to buzz the column of foliage to the ground. But what about those tricky grasses that are evergreen […]

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How Small Can I Prune My Shrub or Tree? A Rule of Thumb

November 15, 2011 15 comments

This is a question most of us pros have come to dread. Not because we dislike answering questions, but because the subtext is so often, “I want a particular tree, but I don’t have room for it. May I have your professional go-ahead to hack the holy hell out of it to keep it to […]

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Prune Your Hellebores: A Public Service Announcement

August 14, 2011 3 comments

Lenten roses, Helleborus orientalis, are gorgeous in winter. They’re gorgeous in spring, too. But if you don’t deadhead them once they’re done blooming, they stop being gorgeous and start looking ratty. Then, they turn into spawning hellcats, dropping masses of seeds that sprout into masses of tiny, slow-growing, hard-to-remove seedlings that, yes, could theoretically turn […]

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Hellebore Pruning: How-To and A Cautionary Tale

February 18, 2011 25 comments

There are two schools of thought on pruning Lenten rose, or Helleborus orientalis. One side says to prune off the old foliage to the very base just as the Hellebore is starting to flower. The bloom spikes start coming up in the center of the plant, and the old foliage lays down obediently: If you […]

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Pruning Miscanthus Grass: How to Cut Back Big Ornamental Grasses

January 27, 2010 10 comments

Ready to prune your Miscanthus Grass? This is the time of year to do it! Ornamental grasses start shedding little grass bits everywhere in January, and with every windy storm they become increasingly messy until in early March you have a bunch of grass sticks still upright and grass leaves piled up everywhere in your […]

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Brrr! What NOT to Prune in Winter

January 17, 2010 7 comments

Right now it’s major big time pruning season here in Northern Cali. I’m cutting back hardy perennials, roses, fruit and other dormant trees and ornamental grasses. But there are a few things I’m leaving alone for the time being. A lot of my favorite plants are frost-tender and can be killed by a stern frost […]

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How to Prune Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Video Tutorial)

November 30, 2009 21 comments

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is a true garden classic, especially paired with ornamental grasses, lavenders and colorful sages. It’s particularly great because during the summer when everything else is blooming, its greenish-white buds are getting bigger and bigger, creating a subtly beautiful show, then as everything else slows for the fall, ‘Autumn Joy’ bursts into bloom […]

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How to Summer-Prune a Floppy Miscanthus Grass (Video Tutorial)

September 26, 2009 10 comments

I’m a big fan of ornamental grasses because they add so much motion and life to a garden. If you use multiples, they’re an easy way of bringing a sense of continuity to a busy or scattered-feeling garden, because the effect of their foliage is so soothing. Miscanthus is a favorite because it grows so […]

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How to Prune Hydrangeas (Video Tutorial)

September 12, 2009 9 comments

I love Bigleaf Hydrangeas (H. macrophylla), the traditional garden Hydrangea with either big mophead flowers or the subtler lacecap flowerheads. Most gardens have a Hydrangea or two tucked in, and why not? As long as they have composty soil and get watered regularly, they make a fantastic show of blooms with very little effort on […]

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How to Deadhead Mexican Bush Sage or Salvia leucantha (Video Tutorial)

September 1, 2009 4 comments

I shot this video in December, when this Salvia was at the end of its blooming season and just starting to think about going dormant, but the advice for how to deadhead and prune it is still great for summer. Right now, many of the Mexican Bush Sages in the gardens that I maintain are […]

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