The record-breaking October snowstorm damaged many trees and shrubs, leaving half-shorn branches dangling everywhere. Obviously, we must cut these back. But if any Patch readers have a little extra energy this Thanksgiving weekend and want to cut back a few more bushes for aesthetic reasons, choose carefully.
Sometimes I get ideas for my articles from someone else. Often an innocent garden question ends up as the subject of my next opinion piece, under the theory that if one person wonders what to do, perhaps many more do as well. The nice man who was painting my barn asked me which shrubs he can cut back right now and which he should leave alone.
Weigela is another spring bloomer best pruned right after the flowers fade in spring. Many of us have the purple-leaved and hot pink-flowered “Wine & Roses” or the variegated leaf, light pink-flowered “Monet” in our Connecticut gardens.
A few common woody plants benefit from a fall prune. Montauk Daisy and Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) easily bear a clip back to a foot high and bloom all the better the next spring. Buddleia can grow back up to six feet tall after being chopped. Both these specimens look much better growing anew, and cutting back big branches helps avoid heavy snow splitting major structural portions of the plant. Early spring is a fine time to clip these as well. Go ahead a crop a Rose of Sharon some for height control.
Ignore your Hydrangea. There are many categories such as Climbing, Big Leaf and Oakleaf etc. with technical and botanical names we don’t need to get into here. Try to just leave these plants alone. Most classic species, such as “Annabelle”, should really never get a haircut because they bloom on old wood. This makes Hydrangea a pretty maintenance-free plant. I must admit that I cringe every time I drive by a Hydrangea that has been cut back to nubs during fall clean-up. Simply clipping off the spent flower heads is possible now as long as the rest of the branch stays intact. And hope for good weather since broken branches or an icy spring with no snow can leave an old fashioned Hydrangea flowerless for spring.
Several newer types of Hydrangea bloom on both old and new branches, so a slight pruning for shape and size is fine. “Limelight” and “Endless Summer” are two Hydrangea that will bloom again whether trimmed or not.
Red Twig Dogwood stems add great color and structure to . Go ahead and clip a few for décor, but try to leave this bush largely intact for winter since the bright red color is most intense on the new stems that grew over the summer. Revisit it in the spring.
Several of my Golden Spirea were eaten by mice last winter during the deep snow. They still bloomed beautifully because the flowers grow on the new spring growth. If you feel the need to clip away, try a slight shorn on this shrub to remove seed heads.
Most non-blooming evergreens can still survive a clipping and some ravaged by the premature snow will require it. Many horticulturalists, however, believe early spring is a better time to trim. But a little shaping and collecting for wreaths is fine now. Just don’t do a major re-work and put your tools away before our next big storm.