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.



Blooms all year long? A landscape that has flowers each season? Reliable plants for great color? You have a million choices. When you consider everything that blooms around us, I guarantee you will want to eliminate the lawn!

We are lucky in the middle part of NC – we have lots of options, probably more than you thought. With our temperate weather and clay soil (yes! clay is good!), it is possible to have something in bloom during each season, no matter the size of  your garden. It does take planning, but first let us introduce you to your many options. The key is knowing what is available. Designing gardens with flowers and fragrance all year, I know which plants are easily found. I also need to match the maintenance requirements to the garden owner. I will fill you in on when a plant might be hard to find or require more maintenance than you have time.

After this class introduces you to all the flowering plants in your area, consider taking our next class in this series: Creating a Blooming Garden  Home and Garden Workshops & Classes  in the Spring 2023. Spots will be limited so plan early.



shady garden plants

Plants for Shady Yards

Need plants for your shady yard? There are all types of shade – afternoon, morning, noon, that caused by trees, caused by shrubs, caused by other buildings. What type and how much do you have? This is the key to making sure your plants survive. The other important key to survival is water.

The type of shade and what causes the shade is a huge survival clue. A plant under tree or shrub shade means that plant has competition: a tree drinks a lot. It is a big bully in the landscape with it’s deep roots and it’s large frame to satisfy. Give each plant the space it needs without having to resort to fights.

Do you have a building creating a shady yard for plants? Does the building get sun, but the plants are in the shade? That building draws in heat during the day and then releases it at night. This causes stress to a shady yard plants. While you may think the shade is protecting them, they might be cooking!

You buy a plant that is ‘very hardy’ in your planting zone and site situation, and assume it can live without mulch. Wrong! Even your shady yard plants need mulch to keep the ground temperatures and moisture levels more even.

And, as always, if your plants are newly installed, they need water, even in the shade.

I get asked all the time, ‘I have too much shade! There are no plants that survive without sun.’ Watch and learn your site situation, add irrigation and move plants around if they aren’t happy. It might take some time, but all great gardens do take planning and time. You can have a shady yard with marvelous plants you will enjoy for years.

create a blooming garden

Love Flowers? Create a Garden with Blooms All Year!

How do you create a blooming garden? In our upcoming workshop, we will help you do just that.

What is a blooming garden?

Create a blooming garden

If you have had my Blooms class (and you will need it for this new workshop), you already have a good knowledge of all the plants that bloom in our area. Now the question becomes: how do I create a blooming garden? How do I put it all together? How does it all work together and not end up looking like a jumbled mess? Can we really combine all those textures, colors, sizes, plants types and coordinate bloom times and colors and make it look good? And, can we have something blooming in each season or, even better, each month? The answer is yes, but it takes some work. Are you up to it? Let me teach you the particulars while you work on a section of your landscape. Then you can move on to larger garden sections.

The Process

  • Choose a specific area to re-design
  • Take measurements and ‘before’ photos
  • Make note of existing plants and what can be relocated
  • Take a site assessment – if you haven’t done this in the past, you aren’t gardening
  • Research for plants that match your site requirements
  • Plan your combinations based on your research
  • Install and enjoy your new plants

The ‘Fun’ Part

To create a blooming garden is similar to a work of art. Think about creating a four-season container with several plants. You have limited space, the container won’t be moved so you have a precise set of growing conditions/circumstances. But you do want it to look great all year. If you choose the correct size container, you may only have room for 6-7 plants that cannot fight, must stand out on their own and look good with minimal maintenance.

To have a garden designed so that it looks great 99% of the time means you have created something you can enjoy all year. And isn’t that a great goal? Take our class and you will create a blooming garden Home and Garden Workshops & Classes or Contact us for more information.

Read more: Love Flowers? Create a Garden with Blooms All Year!

Discover all of the Remarkable Seasonal Blooms for the Piedmont

Sweet Pea flowers – early Spring

Blooms class shows you what is in flower every season of the year in the Piedmont. We have the luxury of having a garden full of flowers all year long – as long as you plan!

Blooms – the class

This class allows you to sit, watch and learn which plants to add to our gardens for a succession of blooms. Plants come and go in today’s market. What has always been grown in our gardens, might not handle the climate change affecting our area. There will always be newer cultivars, colors, shapes, textures. Some gardeners want tried and true, some want new and different. With each decision will come many more.

I talk about each and every plant I show you on a PowerPoint presentation. I will answer as many questions as I can and share information gained through experience. Gardening since the age of 2, every year I learn more about the gardens around us. I can, through this and my other landscaping classes, make you the best gardener you can be!

garden blooms
Hellebore flowers – Winter

What to do next?

Well, you can do a lot of research, figure out what is in bloom with your site situation in each season, plan the flowering sequence, colors and textures and then try to buy locally.

Or, you can take our class, Blooms

Create the Best Plan for your Home Landscape

design your landscape

Want to know the components to a great landscape? Want to do it yourself, rather than pay lots of money for the design? You can learn to design your own landscape and create a working plan. From that plan, you can do a full install or take your time over several seasons. And you will save $1000s.

Understanding Your Landscape

You live in your home but do you understand what is happening outside your home – in your yard: how it is growing, what will work and what will not, what you need from it and how it looks to others, the soil structure and what difference that makes to a plant’s survival, the yard’s exposure to wind and traffic and noise? This workshop will help you put your ducks in a row and produce a custom landscape!

The Design Process

These are the steps we take when we design your landscape:

  • Investigation
  • Site assessment
  • Survey or plat
  • Taking measurements
  • Observation
  • Defining needs and wants
  • Accessibility
  • Determine hardscape changes/upgrades
  • Research plant material – what you might like and what is available
  • Set budgets – both time and money
  • Determine if you or someone else will install
  • Plan for beds versus lawn space
  • Place plants with consideration of size, color, deciduous/evergreen, fragrance, bloom time
  • Determine mulch and possible irrigation
  • Finished plans
Simple Landscape Full Plan

Does seem like a lot of work! And it is! But I can teach you how to create your own landscape plan that you or someone you hire can install. You will be proud, you will have exactly what you want and you will understand the world outside your home.

Why should we plan our landscape?

Do you want your yard to look like a cookie-cutter, development landscape? Do you want it to look one-dimensional, with the same plants across the front?

Or do you want it to look like you planned each plant addition. You coordinated the combination of plants for bloom and flower and have leaf color and different textures, shapes and sizes? Your plants will thrive because you took the time to determine your site requirements and whether or not the plant will work.

A planned landscape adds more value to your home, estimated to be about 10-20% of tax value.,type%2C%20and%20design%20in%20landscaping.

What’s Next?

Take our course on landscape design. This class will be part discussion and part work on your part. You will be supplying all the above info regarding your landscape, you will do your research and I will help you put it all together. Sound like a great plan? Of course it is. I have been designing landscapes of all types and sizes for over 40 years and I have been teaching landscape design for around 30 years. I can help you. Home and Garden Workshops & Classes