Diggin’ In with Kathy Van Mullekom
Pruning is an important part of gardening. It’s really not about controlling size but rather enhancing the health and appearance of shrubs and trees.
Far too often, pruning is seen as a major way of controlling size. Plants often don’t need pruning if you plant them where they can grow in their natural shape and size. Then, they are happy and you are happy.
Pruning, however, can be used to effectively control pests and diseases. For instance, removing interior crossing and rubbing and crowding branches on roses, camellias, crape myrtles and vitex can reduce the likelihood of diseases such as leaf spot and \powdery mildew. Interior pruning promotes better air and light circulation which keeps plant foliage drier and healthier. This form of pruning also gives bad bugs fewer places to hide.
Interior pruning can be done anytime of the year because you are removing entire branches and stems. Do this kind of pruning slowly and methodically. Stand back and eyeball the plant, choosing a few to first remove. Then, stand back and examine your work and decide if more need to be removed.
I love nothing more than to use this method of pruning on wax myrtles, which can be left to grow as privacy hedges or alone as small trees. Sculpting a large wax myrtle into a small tree is a form of art; remove all lower limbs from ground to waist high, and then remove interior limbs to reveal the plant’s sculptural growth. This can also be done with large camellias.
Thoughtful pruning of roses is an artistic act, too. I have done this often on roses for visual interest. But, often for better plant health because air and light circulation are improved. Roses are notorious for leaf spot and bug infestations, and added light and air help prevent that.
Remember, plants need space to breathe and grow. Stop crowding your shrub beds and stop planting too close to each other and too close to buildings. Your plants will be happier and so will you. Happy gardening!
Got gardening questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org