Crossed Branches and Pruning

When pruning shrubs and trees there are certain characteristics you need to look for to determine where to cut, how to cut, when to cut, or even what to cut. It's like a good mystery movie with the who, what, when, and where! One very important thing to watch out for is crossed branches (this would be a who). Crossed branches are branches that have grown into a position where the bark rubs against the bark of another branch or trunk. Crossed branches can rub when the wind blows gradually scraping away the bark and causing damage. If left long enough the branches will gradually merge together possibly making the form of the plant look a little less desirable. The other day when out in the garden I took a short video that demonstrated what it looks like when branches cross. It happens fairly frequently and even more so with…

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Bad Breaks

Broken branch of a crape myrtle Sometimes in gardening, as in life, we experience bad breaks. We don't intend for these to happen, they just do. Whether caused by too much stress, mistakes, or happenstance the only power we have over these breaks is to clean up and hope for the best. Such is the case with one of my crape myrtles planted along our property line border. The crape myrtles have a beautiful watermelon red color when in bloom but the recent rains have left their branches heavy with moisture.  Add to that a dash of wind and you have a recipe for a bad break. The crape myrtles broke off right at a branching point (or crotch) where two of the major branches were joined. Here's a closer look at the break point.  The joint is split down the middle which isn't good because it leaves a large…

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Ten Cans of Gardening

Every now and then it's fun to go back and look up the statistics from The Home Garden to see what people are looking for and eventually wind up here. Sometimes the search terms are funny but hopefully the results lead the searcher to great info. So here are ten search terms that showed up that all began with the word: Can. And my responses! Can I divide a heavenly bamboo? Yes you can! I'm trying not to sound like Bob the Builder here but heavenly bamboo spreads very easily by rhizomes just under the surface of the soil. By digging up the area around the sprout in question you can find the root system and snip it off to make more plants. It's an easy way to propagate Nandina domestica. This probably won't work as well for the new cultivars of Nandina since they seem to be much more…

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Japanese Dappled Willow Sculpture (Salix integra)

Several weeks ago I told you of a little dappled willow pruning experiment I tried at my in-laws home.  Before I show you the results let me quickly revisit some characteristics of dappled willows and why I like these shrubs. About Dappled Willows: Japanese dappled willows or (Salix integra 'Nishiki') are shrub willows that will quickly grow between 10-12 feet tall and enjoy moist soil conditions with plenty of sun. They begin each year with green dappled foliage and will eventually will sport new growth that retains a whitish-pink shade on the stem tips a little later in the spring. Dappled willows can be adapted as a hedge row, as a standard, or make neat living sculptures (as you can see in my first attempt below). Dappled Willow Propagation: Like most willows Salix integra is very easy to propagate from cuttings either in water or just by sticking in a…

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Cutting Back Miscanthus in the Spring

Among many garden chores that come in spring perhaps the biggest is the trimming of the ornamental grasses. Trimming back perennials can be time consuming but the ornamental grasses can be a bear. It's not the tiny little hair-like strands of the Nassella tenuissima (Ponytail grass), or the tall and narrow 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grasses. The panicums aren't a problem either, both 'Northwind' and 'Shenandoah' switchgrasses are relatively tame. The muhly grass is very cooperative. It's the miscanthus. I know someone is probably thinking "Dave shouldn't plant that, it's invasive" and you would be right, it is and I shouldn't, and I won't - at least not anymore. I'm switching to the panicums as a replacement for miscanthus but I still have to tend the miscanthus I have even if I never add another one to the landscape. Pruning an Ornamental Grass Trimming back an ornamental grass is fairly…

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A Radical Tree Pruning

The other day I mentioned something I've been putting off: a tree removal. It didn't take long but it was tough work especially the hauling away part. I don't own a chainsaw and just used an old bow saw that has been worth its weight in gold over the years. The tree was a cedar. I don't know exactly what type but it could easily have grown to 40 feet or more in height over time. Well above a good height for a tree planted so close to the house. It's proximity to the house was the primary reason for removing the tree but it was also severely infested with bagworms. I won't plant exactly in it's place due to its root system. I'll move a few more feet away from the house and plant a white dogwood that my wife has been wanting for a long time. We planted…

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Creatively Pruning a Dappled Willow

This past weekend we went to visit my wife's family. On the property they have a couple Japanese Dappled Willows ('Hiroki Nishiki') that I've taken cuttings from in the past. They are several years old and have really become large shrubs stretching over ten feet tall. Needless to say a shrub this large needs a special place and if doesn't have that special place it needs pruned. The willow needed pruned so I set about attempting to coppice the shrub. Coppicing is where you cut the shrub to within a couple inches of the ground and allow it to regrow. Usually trees that are coppiced are cut back annually but this willow never had the treatment. I started the process of coppicing but as I cut back branches I began to see a shape emerge. Two main branches that I tied together last year had formed a nice curve and…

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Don’t Commit Crape Murder

It's a horticultural crime.  A serious crime.  One with lasting repercussions on the garden and your landscape. What is crape murder? It is the unnatural and unsightly mass pruning of wonderful crape myrtle trees.  These garden trees are hacked down in the prime of life destroying what could potentially be an amazing tree.  Why do people desecrate such a noble tree?  I hope it is only ignorance.  People for years have trimmed them in this fashion and turned them into lollipops of color.  If you drive through commercial developments you will find many magnificent myrtles murdered in what can only be an ill conceived notion that it looks nice.  OK maybe that's just my opinion but if you ask me crape myrtles should be allowed to freely express their "inner treeness".  They should be allowed to stretch into the sky in the fashion that mother nature intended and not pruned…

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