Last Call Before Fall


When August bubbles up to the top of the calendar, it is still sweltering summer, but fall is coming and certain gardening chores need doing before that happens. Specifically, the pruning of shrubbery, hedgerows and roses needs to be finished by around the middle of August for the new growth that will be spurred by the cuts to harden off before the cold weather comes.

Above: Looking towards the shed, shorter boxwood hedge, red Salvia coccinea and Cuphea ‘Purple Passion’ in the fore.


I know it can be difficult to think of cold when the forecast is for continued record shattering heat and drought, but rumor has it that some of us will be wearing sweaters and coats by the end of the year, those USDA Zone 7 and lower, anyway.

Above: The berries of Viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’ are beginning to turn pinkish, in the background Physocarpus ‘Summer Wine’ needs a haircut now.


I love to prune, to be honest. It may be a control issue I have, but I love the looks of a neat and tidy hedge. Often, too often actually, shrubs have been planted too closely together so that one is crowding out its neighbor. Sometimes shrubs grow much larger, click here for more about that, than the tag predicted they would. Sometimes pathways jump into the way of the overhanging branches of neglected shrubs. Whatever the case, August is time to remedy all ills in the way of illiterate and inconsiderate shrubbery. So sharpen those pruners, loppers and saws, dear readers, and have a look around your gardens for likely cuttees.

Above: Hairstreak butterfly on Eryngium yuccifolium with the knot garden boxwood hedge still looking fairly neat, probably not needing to be trimmed.


The task tackled today was to top the row of Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Gold Mop’ that have grown to be twice as tall as advertised, with no end in sight. This was a job beyond my strength and ability, to wield a chainsaw while on a ladder, so the mighty Finanacier was called up to duty.


At the end of the row is a lone Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’ that anchors the evergreen hedge. It still needs some shaping and reducing in width at the top, this photo reveals.


Along the back side, which faces the veggie garden, an electric trimmer keeps the pathway clear. On the front side, which faces north and is not nearly as golden in hue as the back, hand shearing keeps the evergreens from casting too much shade on the ever growing deciduous azaleas. Some of those are now taller than the Gold Mops, as was the original plan.


The next pruning will be done on the Pyracantha row. Planted for privacy and to hide the silver chain link fence, these firethorns are attacked yearly by wild grapevines. I like to use the grapevines in craft projects so those will be pulled off before the chainsaw takes down the bush at the far end that was left uncut when the chainsaw blade gave out. There are berries galore for the birds to gorge themselves on, growing on the shrubs that were cut down to size last year.


The boxwood hedge around the knot garden has not grown much over the summer and might be allowed a reprieve from the trimming. The roses were cut earlier when the super hot temps and lack of rain caused them to look horrible. New growth and flowering are the rewards, so there will be less work for the last call in August.

Above: Rosa ‘Knockout’ that is pruned to be a tree rose on a single stem with all growth at the top.


Fall is just around the bend, as the mums, asters and goldenrods are beginning to form flower buds. The Dahlias have been blooming for some time, but will show off best as the days become shorter. The pruning list is being checked off as the chores are finished. For we know that winter is coming.

Above: Dahlia ‘Gallery Cobra’ and D. ‘Gallery Singer are budding up for fall.

Last year’s post on this topic can be seen below:
Last Call

To help you get started:
How To Conquer The Fear Of Pruning

Frances

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17 Responses to Last Call Before Fall

  1. simon says:

    Yes preparing for Autumn/ Fall is one of the joys pf gardeningf. Unfortunately the weather in the part of the UK i live in has been so bad that soem plants still think it is late spring while others have died off because the ground has been far to wet for them.

    Hi Simon, thanks for visiting. I am so sorry about the UK weather. Some places getting too much rain, while in much of the US, the food crops are drying up and blowing away like dust in the wind from lack of rain. Sad. May Fall bring relief to us all.
    Frances

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    There is a cold front moving through here as I type. The wind is blowing and it is only supposed to get up to 80 degrees so your pre-fall post is perfect for here too. Have fun this weekend pruning up a storm.

    Good deal on your cold front, Lisa. Rain drove me inside just now from my zen pruning. Signs of fall are out there, if we but look.
    Frances

  3. Sue Ellen says:

    A needed reminder for me. I have several plants that need a trim. I am not usually one that is ready for fall but this year’s heat has me ready for the cooler weather of fall.

    Good deal, Sue Ellen. Fall comes whether or not we are ready for it. HA I have learned over the years, from frost burnt foliage, to get the pruning done in August. It may seem like winter is so very far away, but the new growth needs plenty of time to harden.
    Frances

  4. Rose says:

    A timely piece, Frances, as the temperatures have dropped and we’re in for a week of days in the 80’s–a welcome relief! I’ve been wondering about my Knockout roses, especially the two oldest ones I have, which have become overgrown–can I cut them back hard right now and still have them bloom again this fall? Roses are something I know little about, so I tend to do nothing rather than do something I might regret.

    Thanks Rose. Yes, this is the time to cut back the roses one more time. I am not sure about what flowers you will get, but the rose will thank you. Remember, roses bloom on new growth, so the more you cut, the more they bloom. Cut away any crossing branches to thin out the middle for better air circulation and sunlight. Knockouts are shrub roses, and should be cut to shape like any shrub. The major, hard core cutting happens here in February, just as the new growth emerges. Yours should be cut as growth begins in late winter/early spring, too. Good luck!
    Frances

  5. Mark and Gaz says:

    Your garden is lovely, and you’re right, timing is essential on certain garden chores

    Thanks Mark and Gaz. Pruning is part of gardening, and timing is important.
    Frances

  6. My Kids Mom says:

    I cannot make myself give any love to my garden when it is 90 degrees out and the air buzzes with mosquitoes. Then when it does finally cool off, I regret that I didn’t prune flowers back to encourage another showing.

    The best time to go out into the garden, for me, is the earliest morning, before the skeeters wake up and it is still cool. I am covered head to toe when going out, so early morning is the coolest time of day, too.
    Frances

  7. Lola says:

    Still very warm here. Crepe Myrtle just blooming. You sure have a lot to get ready for Autumn. I love it all. The open mail box? just like you were expecting the Fall time. In the 2nd pic. is that Japanese Blood Grass?

    Thanks Lola. The crepe myrtles have been blooming for many weeks here. I am surprised yours are just now starting, unless they are in shade. My garden is large, it’s true. I am trying constantly to adjust the plantings to make less work for me, but there is no such thing as a work free garden. The grass in the second shot is Heavy Metal Panicum. The mailbox has the remains of a bird’s nest in it, up in the veggie garden. It is not our official mailbox, that is down at the street.
    Frances

  8. Frances you are reminding me I do have a long to do list since the heat and drought have thwarted much of my chores. It will be another crazy, busy fall with projects left for next year I believe.

    Thanks Donna. I know how it is to postpone chores due to the weather, etc. I now get out there and prune, or weed or whatever as time allows during the summer. We don’t want that new growth to get zapped by an early frost, or even a normal frost. It needs that much time to harden and look good for the winter. Sometimes waiting until next year is the best course.
    Frances

  9. Gail says:

    I love that first photo Frances with the Salvia glowing in the background…I admire your go for it attitude with pruning. I am forever hacking at Hedge, but, he never shapes up as pretty as the evergreens! Speaking of evergreens~Your trimmed hedges, especially along the veggie path make me think of the English gardens we saw…Such good memories. xoxogail

    Thanks Gail, I love that shot, too. You know me well enough to know that go for it pretty much sums up my life philosophy! HA Forsythia is difficult to control and seldom looks pretty during the winter until it buds up. The photos from our England trip are a constant inspiration to me. Think of all the pruning they do over there. Yes, sweet and wonderful memories!
    xoxoxo
    Frances

  10. I do appreciate riding on your zone coattails, if you know what I mean. Your posts give me a reminder or a nudge to get busy with a season appropriate task. I have been debating on whether or not to really take down in height my oakleaf hydrangeas although I hate losing the look of the spent blooms over the winter. I have a new little initial shortcut about some of my gardening chores…it’s WWFD…what would Frances do! I am getting braver about being more aggressive and attempting to be the Master of my Domain. No doubt, Mother Nature smiles gently and knowingly at my attempts at control. She knows that, in the end, she calls the shots!
    Are your Dahlias planted anywhere in the vicinity of that sumptuous berry laden Pyracantha? The colors would go great.

    Thanks so much, Michaele, your comments always make me smile! Sometimes you have to sacrifice blooms, or berries or something in the short term that will be better in the long haul in the garden. If it were me, I would cut that oakleaf now, but it is your garden. Mother Nature is in charge, there can be no doubt about that. The Dahlias are far, far away from the pyracantha, but there are wonderful blackberry lilies, Belamcanda chinensis blooming now that give the orangey color echo. Thanks for the tip!
    Frances

  11. Tree Pruning Hendersonville says:

    Gardening is all about bringing a blank space of land to your inner atmosphere, a form of expression, to me at least. To have a patch of Earth all to your own, to grow beautiful life.

    -Tony Salmeron

    I couldn’t agree more, Tony.

  12. I love that combination of dahlias, very pretty. I always lust after other’s dahlias and just can’t figure out a spot in my garden for some. One of these days I will find the perfect spot. Looks like you have!

    Thanks Janet. Finding the spot is key, for sure. Most of mine are in a raised bed, 3 x 6 x 2 feet high that sits in a very sunny and protected spot. But this last year, dahlias planted in the fall, bought on sale at the big box, returned and are now forming buds. The ones in the raised bed have been blooming for many weeks.
    Frances

  13. Alison says:

    You make me want to cry! Summer here in the PNW has just started. That is a very pretty Dahlia!

    Oh dear, Alison, I am so sorry! Our climates are so different, we are already sick of summer’s heat. At least we have had some rain, unlike some parts of the country who have both the heat and terrible drought. We look forward to fall, always, here in Southeast Tennessee. August is the month when things begin to change, although it is still quite warm.
    Frances

  14. I can’t believe the summer’s almost over. I’m glad it’s cooler and we have more rain, but I’m sad that we didn’t have more pleasant days to enjoy. Thanks for the reminder about all the garden chores.

    Thanks for visiting, Plant Postings. Our summer was weird, as was spring and even winter. My only choice is to take advantage of every nice day that comes around and grab some gardening time in the very early morning on those super hot and humid days.
    Frances

  15. sharon says:

    amazing photos …super macro! do you drug these butterfly to keep them still….OMG

    Thanks Sharon. I stalk them all over the garden and never get a decent shot. Once a great while, one will be still and let me get close and click a few times.
    Frances

  16. Nicole says:

    Your post is such a treat for the eyes! Love the hot purple cuphea as well as the dahlia. I thought my garden was coloful and bright but yours seems to beat mine this month.

    Hi Nicole, thanks, so nice to see you here. The summer sees hot colors here, to show up better in the heat and harsher sunlight. I bet your garden looks equally brilliant!
    Frances

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