Last Call

Last call for pruning, that is. Mid August is the latest safe date for chopping back perennials, pruning roses and boxwood hedges, among others, that will allow the new growth spurred by said chopping and cutting to harden enough to withstand the onslaught of winter. These dates differ by zones, but this is the time for our own zone 7 cutting. This is not to say that we have never cut after August, for often the best time to do anything in the garden is when there is opportunity to do so, with the busy schedules that most of us enjoy nowadays. But the roses in particular should not be pruned once August has passed. The hard pruning is done on Valentine’s Day, to prepare for the flush of growth in Spring, illustrated above on Hybrid Musk Rosa ‘Penelope’ on May 23, 2011.

Since reshaping the boxwood hedge this year, with several light pruning forays to get the points, dips and size to the desired specifications, we wonder if a final cleaning up would make for happier winter viewing when this green wall stands out against the grey and brown of the cold season. Probably, it would.

Anything that has grown too large for its space, evergreen or deciduous, could be taken down to size now, as well. The winterberry hollies in front, shown above in full berry last November, growing happily under the ever spreading canopy of the Yoshino cherry tree, too happily it seems, are much larger than we would like.

Taking some branches way back and lightly trimming others will still allow the berries to shine this winter of the Ilex verticillatas. It has been noted that roadside plantings of these southeast native shrubs seen in North Carolina are kept low and lush, covered with berries. Ours have been allowed to grow large and with a natural shape, nice but it would be easy to do some clipping now for future neatness, compactness and more berries.

In past years, there has been clear cutting of the daylilies and colonies of Japanese painted ferns along the garage deck wall, with a good layer of compost added about this time. Shown above, the deck walls, upper and lower, in April.

There will be fresh foliage of fern and daylily that will be much more attractive as it fades faire than the mix of dead and new now showing. The above shot shows how new foliage will color by early November. A good cleanup and mulch will also allow the grape hyacinth foliage now beginning to emerge to be more easily admired without the detritus detracting.

Waiting for rain and a break in the temperatures to begin this task will most likely take us past the safe date of August, or so the weather reports seem to be saying, so we had best get the gloves on, empty the green fabric barrel to refill again, grab the felcos and hedge trimmers and begin.


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14 Responses to Last Call

  1. sequoiagardens says:

    Ah, there is a level of detail here I can only admire and envy! 🙂

    Thanks Jack. I am a detail oriented kind of gal, but am not sure about what you are referring. HA

  2. Gail says:

    Dear Frances, Love the undulating hedge~Maybe I would appreciate Hedge more if he had the cool shape….Nah! Thanks for the reminder to prune and cut back~I need to hop to it! xxoogail

    Thanks Gail. I am liking the boxwood hedge in that shape, too, but it does seem to need more frequent trims. I am not sure that anything will endear your Hedge to you, but maybe?

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I really like your box hedge trimmed to look like ocean waves. It will make you smile this winter for sure. We have had a cool down here. I have been out pulling and pruning. It feels so good to be able to be outside without major stress. Now if we could just get some good rain. Heck at this point I would happily accept any rain. Have a great weekend.

    Thanks Lisa. I am so glad you are able to get out there, it has been a harsh summer and rain of any kind would be welcome here as well.

  4. I don’t know if gardeners in my area who are more on top of things have a similar cut-back deadline. I am thinking fall is next week and never consider pruning now. Deadheading, deadleafing, yes, but pruning is done in the spring only. The season is too short to require–or permit–fall pruning. I suppose I could neaten the daylilies, but I would have to do that as soon as the last scape had bloomed, and the last of the daylilies (‘Pardon Me’) are still blooming.

    Wow, Kathy, Pardon Me still blooming? I would not cut that down no matter what! I am a pruning maniac, one of my favorite garden tasks, but if going by the book, pruning later than August will promote growth that will be damaged by frost.

  5. Your photos are absolutely beautiful. I am an artist in South Africa, not young and certainly not able to take photos as well as you do. Could I have your permission to use your work as reference for paintings?
    Warm regards. Kareen Crosland.

    Thanks Kareen. I would be honored for you to use my photos as reference for paintings.

  6. Emily says:

    I so appreciate your garden tips and timing. I need to be making notes for when I start my “real” gardens next spring!

    Happy Gardening!

    Thanks Emily, glad to be able to help.

  7. Phillip says:

    Thanks for the reminder. This is something I always forget to do.

    Thanks for visiting, Phillip. I often forget, too. Maybe this post will help us both, and others to remember before it is too late.

  8. Christina says:

    All the things that you intend to prune back NOW, that sounds like a lot of work to me, but it makes sense. In my garden there isn’t anything to prune back right now. I am just still busy with deadheading roses and other flowers like salvias, scabiosas etc. What a difference climate zone 10 makes!
    I love, love, love your first photo of ‘Penelope’. What an amazing color this rose shows. I also very much like your pruning job on the boxwood hedge. I learned to appreciate boxwood as an evergreen during our recent vacation in England and I am thinking of planting some in our garden, too., But I have to admit I am afraid that I might not be able to do the constant trimming that is needed to keep the plant looking good, so I am not decided, yet. Wishing you lots of energy to get all your pruning done!

    Thanks, Christina, energy is what I need! Most of the pruning mentioned are small jobs, taking about an hour. The boxwood could take longer, though. Having been to England, those neat hedges and topiary really are amazing. They are the inspiration for my little hedge design. But we lack the staff to keep it looking good, so we’ll see how it works out. I do not deadhead much, though, find it way too tedious. I would rather make one big cut than ten little ones. HA

  9. Great reminder, Frances. Fortunately, our temps broke and the humidity hasn’t been bad. I’ve begun my “fall” transplanting — moving hardiest perennials to new locations to establish roots before frost. The gaura didn’t even skip a bloom in the move this week–looked exactly the same in the new, hotter location! The yarrow was so happy to get divided. Next up, my Japanese iris must be divided — this is about the only perennial division chore that I actually loathe to do, but the “donuts” warn me to get on with it or miss out on blooms next year.

    Glad to hear of your cooler weather and fall transplanting, Freda. Not so here, not yet. It is still too hot and way too dry to move or divide. But pruning is another kettle of fish!

  10. Lola says:

    Beauty of summer is coming to an end. But the beauty of Fall is on it’s way. We must add to next yrs beauty with lots of work in the Fall. I think this also helps the Fall beauty. Yours is always candy to this readers eyes. I so enjoy your garden whether in Summer or Fall. Even Winter with snow.

    Thanks so much, Lola, you are too kind and very sweet. I appreciate you! Fall is beautiful here, I agree. We are in transition now, but there are signs of what is to come.

  11. I guess it really is coming, fall that is! We had to stop pruning boxwood and evergreens in July and I already have been cutting down my daylilies for a new flush of growth. We have been having horrible summers lately, insects, heat, storms, etc. Our real growing season seems even shorter, my roses are just beginning to come back from the Japanese Beetles.


    I am sorry about your summers, Eileen. Ours have been hotter and drier than normal the last few years. What is the real normal, anymore, who can say? Fall is welcome here, as are all the seasons, even winter. We have lived a couple of places without distinct seasonal change, in southern California and Texas. I didn’t like it.

  12. I am a bit behind this year, but I am hoping to get to it next week. Your garden looks lovely. I really like the shape of the hedges.

    Thanks Sage Butterfly. I am behind as well, but just keep chipping away at things. The hedges make me smile.

  13. Diana says:

    Ah, yes. Waiting for a rain and for the temperatures to break. Seems we are all in the same boat. Except we can’t prune now because it will stress our plants too much — we could still have four weeks over 100 left to go and everything is strained beyond belief. I’ll trade ya – I’ll come prune for you and you can come water for me — just for a change of scenery!

    Thanks Diana, but no thanks to that switch. Ask me again around January! It seems so hot and dry here, I can only imagine what you all are going through, and don’t want to find out. You have my sympathy.

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