Friday, March 12, 2021

It's spring, so I prune

The first few sunny, dry days, a bit of warmth—you know, the days that smell like spring—and I'm out there in the garden looking at things with a critical eye. Naturally there's plenty of clean-up to be done. Winter wind has blown leaves in from who knows where (even though I've cleaned them up time and time again), along with fir-tree debris—the ice storm seemed to have rained down not only ice but needles and small branches I'll be picking up for weeks. Then of course there's the cutting back of perennials, grasses, dead fern fronds, overgrown vines, and old sarracenia pitchers, etc, etc, etc...

I removed about 97% of the pitchers from this planting, they were brown and broken. It's so much easier to cut them just before the new ones start to grow.

Ditto here, everything old and broken was removed.

Beyond just cutting back however I find myself reaching for the secateurs and pruning saw. The Sambucus nigra (black lace elderberry)...

...and Cotunis coggygria 'Royal Purple'...


...get cut back every year, that's nothing new. After that I took a few branches off the Fatsia japonica out front. 


Then of course there's the Grevillea rivularis removal I wrote about earlier in the week, here with a car in place to see just how little space there is between it and the plants.

It's still shocking to see this bare space.

I cut a couple of branches off the Poncirus trifoliata. 

Primarily in recognition of the mailman who passes through that space. Of course I couldn't just throw them away. 

So they got a nice spot behind the driveway hellebores.

Since winter refuses to cut down the multi-trunked cordylines (first planted in 2006 but killed to the ground a couple of times, and re-sprouted—thus the multi trunks) we finally took the saw to one clump and thinned them out pretty severely ("we" because the fibrous leaves covering the trunk meant this job required more strength than I have)...


There's still the clump on the far side allowed to stay huge.

Andrew has been prodding me to let him cut the lowest three branches off Clifford, our big leaf magnolia, for years now (he's 6ft 2in, I'm 5ft 4in—we experience the garden differently). I finally acquiesced.


It makes me so sad, but he's happy (Andrew, not Clifford)

The next day I pruned branches (both large and small) from the Metapanax delaveyi.




And then I turned my critical eye to the Callistemon viridiflorus. Before pictures would have helped you to understand just how monumental this..


And this...


And this...



Resulting in this...


Is—it really feels quite amazing in person. There's light in the center of that shrub!

As well as opened up space at ground level that's just begging for new plants. Isn't that a shame (ha).


As luck would have it I also learned from a friend that Pseudopanax x 'Sabre' responds well to being pruned. I love those leaves, but three tall leggy branches with no lower leaves just looked silly.
 
And so I cut it back to just a few inches above this split. Fingers crossed it resprouts.

The last bit of pruning I'll share as part of today's post (because there's definitely still more on the way) is this bit of sadness...
The heavy weight of the snow and ice load split my Stachyurus salicifolius in two places. Damn.

For my own record keeping here are a few other things showing damage from our brief winter event. Interestingly they're evergreens dropping their leaves. I do believe they'll rebound and push out new growth...

Corokia virgata 'Sunsplash'
Acca sellowiana (Pineapple guava)
Sophora prostrata

Also, the clumps of Aspidistra elatior along the patio are showing a lot of foliage damage in patterns I can only assume are from the chunks of ice that fell from the tall fir trees behind us. I've never seen the trees iced as they were during this event, and when they started to thaw it was like thousands of ice blades fell slicing into the aspidistra leaves below.

—   —   —

Weather Diary, March 11: Hi 61, Low 36/ Precip 0 

All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

20 comments:

  1. I appreciate a good pruning post. I too cut back hard, otherwise in SoCal things rapidly get out of control. Time to get out there with a critical eye so it looks good in May!

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    1. I imagine it's a very important thing in SoCal... with no real downtime (winter).

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  2. I've been pulling the dead bits off my pitcher plants too -- I don't think they're fattening up quite like yours though...Must feel great to get out there and get everything sorted, taking revenge on the storm by restoring order. So sorry about the stachyurus -- god, I love that shrub. Fingers crossed it's okay!

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    1. I decided to take more off the stachyurus yesterday... following natures cues...

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  3. I love doing a bit of crown-lifting on my big shrubs.

    They respond very well to it and I love the extra space it gives you for planting.

    Is that an Epimedium 'Spine Tingler' below Clifford? It is a lovely big clump of it. Do you ever cut that one back?

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    1. Good eye! That is a patch of epimedium, a mix of E. wushanense 'Spiny Leaf Form' and E. Amber Queen'... and yes they were "mostly" cut back just a couple of days ago, after I took these photos.

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  4. BEAUTIFUL Darlingtonia californica! (I lost mine when I was up North, but plan to get another one this year now that I'm back in Silicon Valley...)

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  5. I hear similar comments from my significant other regarding branches whacking him in the head, and since tall men are a good thing, some branches must go.
    Poncirus trifoliata creates lovely shadows.
    More than once, I have tied branches that were ripped half way and bandaged them. To my amazement, they seemed to heal and continue to grow just fine.

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    1. Thanks for the reminder, I cut the weight off that second break but forgot to bind it.

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  6. I know I always feel a sense of achievement when I finish any major pruning exercises, although I leave the trees to a professional service - there's no way I'm going to take up tree climbing at this point. I cringed when I saw the torn branches of your Stachyurus. I was also surprised by the size of your Callistemon viridiflorus - mine is still relatively dinky but it's alive and has even bloomed (albeit not yet this year) so I'm happy.

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    1. That callistemon is a monster! A beautiful monster.

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  7. Spring is the time of renewal, and pruning my spring gardens N of Chicago and in Denver gave me so much pleasure, even though the damage initially broke my heart. So many new possibilities will be the future for your gardens! Your imagination already has lists, I know. Be sad for beauty lost, be excited for the beauty that will happen.

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  8. Wow, you have been busy. The ice sounds like it was treacherous. I hope all rebounds well between your pruning and icing.

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  9. Pruning is a gardener's 'tough love.' It hurts to do the deed, but you know it is for their own good (most of the time)!
    Btw, what tools do you use? How about a post about tools? I'm always curious to see what others use and how they like them.

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    1. My favorite hand saw is the Silky brand... it's a good one! Perhaps I will do a tools post, good idea. I did one years ago but an update may be in order...

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  10. Seems like it was just a few days ago that your garden was covered in a blanket of white. I agree about a tools post. But can you throw in a bit about their maintenance and techniques? :) The cuts looked very clean btw.

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  11. So nice and satisfying to be able to do some tidying up now. Clifford will look extra magnificent with its lifted canopy.

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