All those plants under snow are similar to bears in winter – hibernation. In the mystical land that is Los Angeles, we don’t do that sort of thing and neither do most of our plants. Still, most plants need some down time in order to give their best in the soon to come warmer months! While I can show you how to give your plants some rest, I wish I knew a way to get myself some time off. Besides, all I have to do in the garden, I’ve been asked to learn some leads on the keyboard for the band. Just what I need – a new instrument to toy with. I played the piano as a kid, but that was in the Eisenhower administration, I think. I know the layout of the keys remains the same, but I don’t think the layout of my brain has. It’s all about patterns, right? Plants grow in patterns, it turns out and that can help us learn how to prune them.
From the first morning of the new year, which traditionally begins about noon (right?), until the weekend following Valentines Day, I will be trying to get my plants ready for the coming growing season. In addition to dealing with the rest of my usual day in the light allotted (this is the time of year I have been known to garden by flashlight), I have over 50 rose bushes and the same number of fruit trees to prune. It makes me tired just to write about it!
When it comes to pruning, no matter the plant, starts with these rules:
Remove all dead, damaged or diseased limbs (in roses, these are called ‘canes’)
Remove all crossing limbs (canes). A ‘crossing’ limb or cane is one that starts on the left side of the plant and grows through to the other side. A crossing limb will rub against others and in the wind can abrade their bark and wood forming an entrance point for disease and insects.
If you have removed less than one third of the plant’s structure, you may now prune for shape and aesthetics. Take out weak and/or older growth first. Try to prune with an eye to open up the center of the plant for more light and air.
For ease, I’m addressing roses only. For one thing, they only require minimal equipment for the most part, and they have a more approachable size. If you get the hang of roses, most trees have similar requirements.
Speaking of equipment, get a good pair of pruners. You want what’s called a “hook and blade