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October 2020
Issue 140
Hello Great Gardeners,

This past week we have had a ton of questions about pruning. Stop!!!! Don't prune. Right now is not the right time to prune anything. If we get a warm snap, that pruning you just did will encourage new growth, and it won't have time to harden off before we get a hard freeze. Then your plant might die during the winter as a result. So in this issue, I am giving you some guides on when to prune what.
As always, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, hit reply. I would love to hear from you. Have a great-gardening day.

Timing On Pruning Trees & Shrubs
From The OSU Extension Service

The late dormant season is best for most pruning.
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. Pruning at the proper time can avoid certain disease and physiological problems:
Pruning at the proper time can avoid certain disease and physiological problems:
  • To avoid oak wilt disease DO NOT prune oaks from April to October. If oaks are wounded or must be pruned during these months, apply wound dressing or latex paint to mask the odor of freshly cut wood so the beetles that spread oak wilt will not be attracted to the trees.
  • To avoid increased likelihood of stem cankers, prune honeylocusts when they are still dormant in late winter. If they must be pruned in summer, avoid rainy or humid weather conditions.
  • 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.
  • Some trees have free-flowing sap that "bleeds" after late winter or early spring pruning. Though this bleeding causes little harm, it may still be a source of concern. To prevent bleeding, you could prune the following trees after their leaves are fully expanded in late spring or early summer. Never remove more than 1/4 of the live foliage.
Examples Include:
· All maples, including box elder
· Butternut and walnut
· Birch and its relatives, ironwood and blue beech
  • Trees and shrubs that bloom early in the growing season on last year's growth should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming  otherwise you will be cutting off next years blooms. Never remove more than 1/3 of the live foliage.
Examples Include:
Lilacs, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Pieris, Weeping Cherries, Forsythia, Fothergilla, Deutzia, Dogwoods, Magnolias, and Redbuds.

Pruning Evergreens:
With few exceptions, evergreens (conifers) require little pruning. Different types of evergreens should be pruned according to their varied growth habits.
  • Spruces, firs and douglas-firs don't grow continuously, but can be pruned any time because they have lateral (side) buds that will sprout if the terminal (tip) buds are removed. It's probably best to prune them in late winter, before growth begins. Some spring pruning, however, is not harmful.
  • Pines only put on a single flush of tip growth each spring and then stop growing. Prune before these "candles" of new needles become mature. Pines do not have lateral buds, so removing terminal buds will take away new growing points for that branch. Eventually, this will leave dead stubs. Pines seldom need pruning, but if you want to promote more dense growth, remove up to two-thirds of the length of newly expanded candles. Don't prune further back than the current year's growth.
  • Arborvitae, junipers, yews, and hemlocks grow continuously throughout the growing season. They can be pruned any time through the middle of summer. Even though these plants will tolerate heavy shearing, their natural form is usually most desirable, so prune only to correct growth defects.
Pruning & Winterizing Roses

Winter Protection:
One of the ways to protect roses for the winter is to be sure they go completely dormant. To accomplish this, stop fertilizing early enough so growth slows down. No fertilizer should be applied after August 15. To further encourage dormancy, stop dead-heading or cutting flowers after October 1 and allow the plant to form hips.

There are many methods to provide winter protection for roses. The whole idea of winter protection is to keep the plant uniformly cold and frozen all winter and prevent the damaging effects of alternate freezing and  thawing. Whatever method is chosen, don't begin covering plants too early. Wait until a hard killing frost has caused most of the leaves to fall. We recommend covering after Thanksgiving. You may also want to wait until the temperature has dropped into the teens for several nights. Prior to covering, remove any foliage or other debris that might harbor disease for the next season.

Before covering, some tall roses may need minor pruning to reduce their height, and tying of the canes together to prevent wind whipping. Pruning, however, at this point should be kept to a minimum. The majority of the pruning will be done in the spring to remove dead and diseased canes.

The most common way to provide winter protection is to pile or "hill-up" a loose, well-drained soil/compost mix around and over the plant to a depth of about 10-12 inches. A variety of hilling materials can be used, but the key is to be sure that the material is well drained. Wet and cold is far more damaging than dry and cold. Also, the decisions that are made when preparing the site for roses really governs what kind of success you will have in winter survival. A rose that is planted in poorly drained soil will suffer and often not survive the winter when that same rose, planted in a well-drained site, will flourish. Soil that is used to "hill-up" plants should be brought in from outside the rose garden. Scraping up soil from around the plant can cause root injury and lessen the plant's chance for survival.

After the soil mound has frozen, the mound can be covered with evergreen boughs, hardwood leaves, or straw to help insulate and keep the soil frozen.

A variation of the "hilling" method that may offer a bit more protection is one utilizing collars. An 18-inch-high circle of  hardware cloth or chicken wire is placed around the plant. The collar is filled with soil, allowed to freeze and then mulched with straw. The benefit of the collar is that it holds the soil in place all winter and prevents it from being washed or eroded away. Over the winter, this erosion can reduce the mound to a very ineffective level, exposing roses to possible winter damage.

Another popular method of winter protection for roses is the use of styrofoam rose cones. If these are used, they need to be used properly. First, don't cover the plants too early. Follow the timing guidelines as for other methods of covering roses. Second, cones need to be well ventilated to prevent heat build-up on the inside  during sunny winter days. Cut four to five 1-inch holes around the top and bottom of the cone. These holes will aid in ventilation and keep the air inside the cone from heating up, causing the rose to break dormancy. It is also advisable to mound soil around the crown of the plant before putting the cone in place. For extremely tender varieties, some rose growers cut the top off the cone and stuff it full of straw for added protection. It is also a good idea to weight the cone down with a brick or stone to keep it from blowing away.

Climbing and rambler roses offer challenges with regard to winter protection. In very cold climates and for marginal varieties, climbers may need to be removed from their supports and bent to the ground, then covered with six inches of soil and mulched.

When laying climbers on the ground for covering, one needs to be very careful not to   injure or crack the stems. As the weather gets colder their long stems are not as pliable, and they are easily cracked resulting in the loss of that cane.

Another method that can be used is to physically pack straw around the canes while they are still attached to the trellis or support. The straw is held in place with twine to keep it in place over the winter. Burlap can then be used to wrap the entire plant, providing protection as well as holding the straw in place.

Finally, always remember that healthy roses are much more likely to make it through severe winters than are roses weakened by disease, drought, insects, or nutrient deficiencies.
Hybrids, Grandifloras, Floribundas, & Miniatures:
Roses like hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, and miniatures produce the best flowers on new or current season's wood. To ensure this type of wood, these roses are pruned very hard in early spring. This usually means removing about one-half to two-thirds of the plant's height and reducing the number of canes.
Suggested pruning sequence:
  • Remove all dead canes; cut them off at the base or point of discoloration.
  • Remove small, weak canes.
  • Leave 3 to 5 healthy, stout canes evenly spaced around the plant.
  • Cut these canes back, leaving 3 to 5 outward-facing buds.

Shrub Roses:
Repeat-flowering shrub roses bear flowers on mature stems that are not old and woody. Severe pruning of these roses would result in reduced flower production. In their first two or three seasons in the garden, shrub roses can be left unpruned. Wait to see what shape develops and then try to prune so that the shape is maintained. Many modern shrub roses are pruned by a method called the "one-third" method. Suggested pruning sequence:
  • In the spring, remove one-third of the very oldest canes. This helps keep the plant from becoming an overgrown thicket of poor-flowering canes.
  • Replace these canes by identifying about one-third of the very youngest canes that grew the previous season.
  • Remove the remaining canes.

The result of this one-third method is that you are continually renewing the rose while at the same time keeping enough mature wood to ensure a good supply of flower-producing wood.

Climbers & Ramblers:
Climbers and ramblers may need a few seasons in the garden before pruning is necessary. In many cases, pruning is limited to removing winter-damaged wood. Pruning is similar for both classes. The difference is in the timing. Because ramblers are once-blooming, they are pruned right after flowering in early summer. Because climbers are repeat bloomers, they are pruned in early spring. Reducing the side shoots or laterals to  3-6 inches stimulates flower production, resulting in more blooms. Training canes to grow more horizontally encourages the growth of bloom producing side shoots.
Cutting Down Perennials In The Fall
Most of the perennials in the garden are finished blooming and it's time to throw in the towel for the growing season.

Some perennials, however, should be left standing and this begs the question 'to cut or not to cut?' It's easy to make a decision with annuals. After the first frost when they are blackened and looking ugly, pull them out and throw them in the compost bin. Likewise, clean up plant debris from the vegetable garden. When asked what to do with perennials, as with many gardening questions, the answer is 'it depends.' Here are some hints on when to cut and when to wait.
Perennials to leave standing

Perennials that add interest to the winter landscape.
During a snowy winter, some plants provide stunning interest in the form of height and structure. Not only evergreens and the skeletons of shrubs but also grasses and standing perennial seedpods display beautiful winter artistry. Ornamental grasses are most dramatic in the winter landscape with their tall plumes. Consider switch grass (Panicum), zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'), and feather reed grass (Calamagrostis). Leave them standing until spring then cut them back before the new shoots appear. Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) and blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) have interesting elongated black seedpods that stand out against the snow. Allow the seeds of sedum 'Autumn Joy' (Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy') and Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) to display their large, round lacy globes all winter long.
Perennials that provide food for birds.
Many birds rely on the seed heads of dried perennials for food. It is comon am to see goldfinches in a stand of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) enjoying the seed treats. The seeds of black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) and oxeye sunflower(Heliopsis helianthoides) are other favorites. In addition, overwintering birds find protection in plant stubs and ground covers.
Perennials that help beneficial insects in winter.
Beneficial insects may hide in or near native plants for the winter either as pupae, caterpillars or eggs. The plants provide shelter from their predators such as birds or spiders. Our native butterfly, the viceroy, rolls itself in a leaf and drops to the ground where it stays until spring, providing a good reason not to rake plant debris from around your perennials.
Perennials needing protection.
Don't cut back marginally hardy perennials like garden mums (Chrysanthemum spp.), anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), red-hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria), and Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum). They are more likely to survive the cold of winter if you leave their tops to collect leaves and snow for insulation and moisture.
Low-growing evergreen or semi-evergreen perennials.
There is no need to cut back hardy geraniums, heucheras, hellebores, dianthus and moss phlox. Tidy them in the spring as needed.
Perennials to cut back
Cut back plants with disease or insect pest problems to reduce the chance of infection the following season. Bee balm (Monarda) and phlox (Phlox paniculata) with powdery mildew are examples. Even resistant varieties of bee balm and phlox can become infected in bad weather so cut them all back. Remember to destroy, not compost, diseased stems and leaves. It is important to cut back hostas and remove all their leaves from the ground as soon as the frost takes them. Dead hosta leaves harbor slug eggs that will hatch and ruin next year's greenery. I cut back plants with browning or blackened foliage and bare stalks that don't add anything visually to the winter garden: peonies (Paeonia), daylilies (Hemerocallis), brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla), and speedwell (Veronica) for example. Late in the season some plants, including yarrow (Achillea), Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum), and globe thistle (Echinops), grow new basal leaves. Cut off the stalks without disturbing this new growth.
When cutting down a plant, leave about two inches above the soil to mark its location. This is especially important for plants that emerge late such as butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), and balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus). You will be less likely to dig into them accidentally before they appear in spring if you can see a portion of their stalks. Bypass pruners are preferred because they make a clean cut through the stem of the plant. Hedge clippers work fine, but for a large planting, but try a power hedge trimmer for efficiency.
Don't be in a hurry to rush outside and cut plants back. Unless the plant is diseased or infected, wait until several hard frosts have killed back the tops. In the spring, the plant sends up energy from its roots to produce beautiful foliage and blooms. Allow the roots time to reclaim that energy from the dying plant, keeping it strong for re-emergence in the spring. For many perennials, leaving plant tops over winter is fine and may be preferable. In some areas, however, where seasons are short, gardeners have more time for cleanup chores in autumn. There's something very satisfying about making an early start on next year's garden.
Pruning Hydrangeas
Pruning all depends on the variety of hydrangea you have.

Old Wood:
These types produce flowers on last years branches.

Mophead, Lacecap, Big Leaf & Oakleaf Hydrangeas are all considered old wood hydrangeas.

Best to avoid pruning these plants, but if you have to prune, prune as soon as the flowers have faded to the next bud. Selectively prune out dead and weaker stems as needed. With older plants cut up to a third of the stems off to the base in late summer. Do not remove all the old wood. Avoid pruning after August.

Mopheads and Big Leaf Hydrangeas are susceptible to winter injury protect with burlap until temperatures have evened out.

There are many new Mophead/ Big Leaf Hydrangeas that will also bloom on new wood. It is best to wait until May to see how they will bud out and then remove dead branches.

New Wood:
These types set flower buds on current seasons growth.

Arborescens (Smooth): Prune down hard to one foot in early March. Remove any ground suckers.

Paniculata (Panicle): Prune back 1/3 of the old growth in late winter.

Climbing Hydrangea: Prune in late spring or early summer to remove dead, diseased or damaged branches.

Some newer varieties of Mophead/ Big Leaf: It is best to wait until May to see how they will bud out and then remove dead branches.
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