As Fall turns to Winter our trees and shrubs become dormant and we naturally think “it’s time to prune”. CAUTION! You are entering a DANGER ZONE! Pruning improperly can destroy what nature has taken years to create.
Cutting dead looking stems off shrubs can eliminate all flowers the following year. Pruning the wrong branches from trees can negatively affect their structure, overall beauty and decrease fruit production.
Ask questions, do a bit of research before grabbing the clippers or pruning saw.
This is the first of several articles offering “easy to follow” suggestions on pruning popular shrubs and trees. Following these instructions will reward you with healthy, blooming trees and shrubs for years to come.
Let’s talk Hydrangeas.
These beautiful shrubs brighten up the shady spots in our yards with multiple blooms on each plant during the spring, summer and into fall. But if pruned incorrectly they will flower very little or not at all.
First step is to identify what type of Hydrangea you have. Most hydrangea varieties bloom on last year’s growth – stems or branches that grew this year, will bear flowers next year. This is common for mophead, lacecap and oakleaf hydrangeas.
– Mopheads are known for their round balls of either white, pink or blue blooms.
– Lacecaps are a flatter, multi-blooming flower resembling flat caps with frilly edges.
– Oakleaf are recognized by their distinctive leaves shaped like those of an oak tree.
These 3 types should be pruned after blooming (late summer/early fall). These bloom for several months so you may need to selectively prune shoots that have already bloomed while leaving others to finish blooming through the season.
If you prune these types of hydrangeas back to the ground in winter, you will not have flowers the following year.
Reblooming Varieties: If your hydrangea is one of the newer reblooming varieties (Endless Summer series, Forever & Ever series) they bloom on both current season’s growth as well as previous years branches. These varieties should not be cut to the ground either – this will delay blooms.
How to Prune
1. Start by removing dead or damaged stems first.
2. If the plant is too large, cut the oldest shoots to the ground, giving the younger, smaller shoots more room to grow. This will shorten and thin out the plant.
3. Cut back stems to just above a pair of healthy buds.
4. Varieties that bloom on old wood should be pruned immediately after they flower
Tip: We suggest planting hydrangeas with non-deciduous shrubs in your landscape. This will allow the focus to shift from the hydrangeas to these other shrubs during the winter months.
By pruning at the correct time of year and using the correct pruning methods your Hydrangeas should reward you with a bounty of colorful blooms from spring through early fall.
NOW is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and vines. Winter is the second best – so get to digging!
Summer’s heat is over, the soil is still warm – actually warmer than in the spring – and the soaking rains of winter will soon arrive. This means deep root growth will occur quickly on shrubs and trees planted in the cooler months of the year.
Why is deep root growth important?
Roots gather nutrients and water for plants and trees, so the better the root system the more nutrients and water the plant receives – thus appearing lusher and healthier. Plants planted now get a head start since they are able to concentrate their energy mostly on root growth during the cooler months.
Healthier plants are the result of planting in the fall.
The same plant planted in spring gets a slower start due to spending energy on both root growth, foliage and flower growth. Also, the cool weather planted plants are better established when summer arrives and can better deal with the heat, largely due to the well-established root system.
This is a question that has 2 very different and distinct answers:
- Take the feeders down by mid-September
- Leave the feeders up until 2 weeks after you have seen the last hummer in the Fall.
Which is right? That is for you to decide for yourself, but here is the thinking behind each one.
Take the feeders down by mid-September so the hummers will leave on their migration and not stay too long because there is still an adequate food source.
This theory is based around the birds leaving due to a dwindling food source. When the summer flowers begin to wane and there is less nectar for them to eat it triggers them to start their migration.
If feeders are left out, this continues to give them a food source that they will rely on too long resulting in a late start to migration or worse yet not migrating at all. Birds who stay don’t make it through the winter since there is no natural food source for them.
Leave the feeders up until 2 weeks after you have seen the last hummer in the Fall so migrating birds can stop and refuel on their migration.
Scientists say that the birds leave not because of a lack of food source but because of their internal biological calendar. The shortening length of daylight in autumn triggers the hormones that cause hummingbirds to migrate. The birds become restless and the urge to migrate becomes too strong to ignore.
By leaving out feeders through September it gives them “refueling stops” on the way south.What to do? That depends upon who you talk to and what makes the most sense to you. Weigh in on your perspective, send us your thoughts by replying to the email.
We touched on the monarch arrival back in our last newsletter, as this annual migration is a unique and amazing phenomenon in North America. The monarch butterfly is the ONLY butterfly known to make a two-way migration like birds do! Some fly as far as 3,000 miles to reach their wintertime home.
Where are they headed, anyway? Monarchs in Eastern North America have a second home in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. These monarchs fly south using several different flyways, and then merge into one HUGE single flyway in Central Texas. It is truly amazing that these monarchs know the way to the overwintering sites even though this migrating generation has never been to Mexico!
As for those worried about the monarch population size – don’t fret! Chip Taylor of www.monarchwatch.org says that they are expecting a reasonably robust population to migrate south this fall. To aid in this effort of protecting and ensuring a successful trip, monarch waystations have been set up along the migration route – 25,131 waystations to be exact – with Texas holding the number one spot with 2,110 monarch waystations! These waystations hold a variety of milkweeds and nectar sources for these travelers to feast on.
Want to track the monarchs?
It’s super easy! Just visit journeynorth.org to see a live map of Adult Monarch Sightings throughout the country. Here’s what the sightings look like as we write this article: