Get Better Plants When You Time Your Pruning

Schedule your pruning chores? You may, or may not, know that there are optimal times of the year when we prune our plants. If you don’t know, please read on and I hope the information helps you.

What does Pruning do to a Plant?

pruning your plants
Typically, we like to wait until after the holidays have passed before doing any heavy pruning. Heavy pruning can be defined as cutting back more than one third of a plant. (Stock photo via barockschloss, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Every time you make a cut on a plant, you direct it to grow. Surprising, right? But you do have that power. This includes cutting back a wayward branch on a Distylium or cutting a handful of Zinnias to bring into your home. In order to do our plants justice, we want to ‘time’ this garden chore. Why? You have made a cut and the plant puts out new growth. The new growth needs 8 weeks to ‘harden off’, which is a fancy horticultural term that means the new growth becomes acclimatized before harsh conditions occur.

Ask Yourself a Question First?

Why are you pruning your plant? Is it above the windows, into the gutters, in front of a door? Taller than you think it should be? Too too large for the space? Those are not good reasons – someone did not choose wisely. Make a better choice and move this plant to a space where it can grow well, without trimming maintenance from you or anyone else. Design your Landscape will help you make better plant choices.

Pruning is extra work for you and often not necessary. There are dwarf varieties of almost every single plant on the market. We are moving toward less maintenance in the garden and less trash in the landfills, even if this is ‘trash’ that composts. Your time could be better allocated! And if compost is your goal, don’t send it to the landfill, keep it on your property.

schedule your pruning
Schedule your Pruning Chores

Best Times to Prune

Ultimately, the best time to schedule major pruning cuts on our landscape plants while a they are in dormancy. Most plants are dormant in late winter, as bud break occurs early spring. But with weather changing on an hourly basis and less predictable than in the past, this means you must be a weather-watcher in order not to cause damage. If you prune and we have warm weather, the plants will grow. IF we get another hit of cold weather, all that new growth will die. This is exactly what happened to local Hydrangeas in the fall of 2021 and winter of 2022. The ups and downs of cold weather caused severe damage or wiped out many shrubs.

Other Times to Prune

Also good times to prune would be in the dead of winter, when you believe that we will have extended cold – in other words, a normal weather pattern. We do not have typical weather patterns any longer, so you must be very careful or you will damage your plant.

And feel free to remove dead, dying, diseased or damaged plant material any time you discover it. The plant certainly doesn’t need it and, in some cases, it may cause further damage.

If the Plant Blooms

If you decide that your blooming plant needs a cut or two, schedule your pruning very wisely if you like those flowers. Know when your plant blooms – winter or early spring plants can be safely pruned up to 6 weeks after bloom. This way you won’t lose the blooms for next year. Summer or fall bloomers are considered blooming on new wood and you can prune accordingly.

Please Don’t Prune During this Times

There is a period in the late summer, early fall (depending upon the weather) when we and your plants would rather you not go through the garden cutting things up. The reason for this is the plant’s need to push new growth. Give the plant 8 weeks before predicted cold weather, from the time you make your cuts. The plant will ‘harden-off’ the new growth within this 8-week period and will survive your pruning.

During the heat of summer is another problem time for plants. The plant is under stress – hurting from too much sun, humidity and not enough water. Do not add more stress, do not prune and cause the plant to grow more while it is struggling.

What is the hired ‘Landscaper’ Doing?

Lots of ‘landscapers’ don’t think you will question them or, if you do, they will make you feel stupid for asking. After all, this is their job and they should know. The vast majority do not know, so you need to be on your toes. I will take you as a student and help to train you, but if you don’t care, I don’t want you as a client; that is how important plant health is to me. If he/she is ignoring this rule, you need to find someone who knows what he/she is doing. Someone ‘cleaning up’, (i.e. pruning), your landscape within the 8-weeks before cold weather is, without a doubt, harming your landscape – and for pay!! Hire someone who knows how plants work and will correctly schedule your pruning!

If you prefer to learn the correct way to prune your plants, come take a short 2-meeting class. We will meet for a class on what to do first; the second meeting will be in a yard perfecting what we have learned. The Pruning class will be taught Winter 2023.

Why does a home improvement project take so long?

Home improvement projects take forever! First you must decide, and agree, on a lot of things. Design contracting teams to budget to labor to materials to timeline, it’s enough to make you stop before you start. From your initial consultation until your home renovation project is complete, it feels like it can take a very long time. Part of the time frame is understanding what you want and having it coincide with what the people you hire can do for you.

The Reason behind the Decision

What is driving your decision to involve yourself in the mess of home improvement? Are you making the space better for you and your family? Are you adding value? Both are valid reasons. But if you are following the latest trends, it might not be worth the time, money and pain. In other words, the reason for the renovation needs to be bigger than the aggravation.

Processhome improvement project

The initial design can take a while to get right, with many revisions. A job should never be priced out until you know exactly what you want. (You cannot compare apples to apples unless this very important step is taken.) Then the contractor will come see your project. Then the sub-contractors come to see your project. Any of these people can and will make suggestions. You might change your mind and then changes are made to the project. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it does skew any job estimates and timeline already discussed.

Another thing capable of causing a project delay might be the availability of products and professionals. And wow! have we seen this during the pandemic. We have no control over our favorite contractor calling it quits and retiring. We have no control over the manufacturing process of the products you choose. However, we can suggest alternatives that might have a better and quicker availability. Why hire a designer?

home improvementLabor

Unless the person you hire is a designer, builder, carpenter, electrician, plumber, painter, etc., he/she must rely on the labor force.

The availability of good, reliable labor is also a relative (and interesting) topic. When someone is readily available, it can mean a few things. Sometimes, they could have just had a cancellation in their schedule. However, they could also be so over-priced that they do not have a backlog of projects. They could also be horrible at what they do and don’t have a ton of clients and so, have plenty of free time.

Project Progress

Then there is the actual work process and order of events to consider. You have planned your home improvement, accepted a job estimate for costs and time, ordered your products or given the professionals the ‘okay’ to place the orders. Once everything has arrived, the sub-contractors begin and then there might be days where nothing is done. Why is that? Well, sub-contractors have to be scheduled to go from job to job and sometimes that schedule does not flow quite the way you – or we – would prefer.

In the end

We would like your job to go quickly and smoothly, so that you can enjoy your new space as soon as possible. Our hope is that in educating you about the project timeline process, you have a better understanding as to how and why things happen the way they do. Home improvement can take a long time. But you don’t want to do the project twice!

hire a designer

How to Cut Through all the Decisions? Hire a Designer if You Need Help Creating your Best Space.

Why should you hire a designer to help with a project? Well, there are a lot of internet sites and television/streaming shows that will tell you that you can do the job yourself.

A designer is there to fix a problem, answer a question and make sure you know your options. A lot of designers might not even understand this issue, but we are not there to bend you to our way of thinking. We are hired to help you based on your needs and wants. And with our knowledge, education and experience, we give you the best direction based on your situation.

Another reason to hire a designer: we will help you stay on track. Most projects have a lot of options you need to consider. Because of the schedule, you need to make a lot of decisions, sometimes quickly. It is very easy to get off course or confused. We help make that decision-making process easier.

Sometimes, the people working for you (contractor, sub-contractors) want an answer from you that will be easiest for them and make them the most amount of money in the least amount of time. So they might not care if there is something else you might like better or an option that will take more time to install. A contractor can make your decisions confusing for you, but nice for him. When you have a design pro on your side, my job is to make your life and decisions easier.

Should you hire a designer? Yes, we cost money – everything about a project costs you money. But a good designer saves you from making mistakes – both involving time and money. And a great designer does that so seamlessly that you get what you need, under budget and on time.

Interior Design Secrets