Don’t Let Your Shrubs Boss You Around

Get Step-By-Step Instructions And View "Before" And "After" Photos

April and May are busy garden months and many things can be accomplished now.  As the soil dries out and warms up, edging and dividing can be done. 

You can prune the roses, late blooming shrubs, buddleia and hydrangea (except macrophylla). 

Don’t let those shrubs boss you around!  Make them grow the way you want. 

Cut the buddleia down to 2-3 feet, cutting just above a bud pointing in the direction you want.  Prune off the spindly branches and only save the string ones. 

Here’s a tarp tip:  buy one small enough that you can handle by yourself (4 x 6), next buy four heavy-duty carabiners.  Clip one on each corner and instantly you have a tarp that stays put and when it’s full clip two together and away you go…no mess!

Use the same approach for roses. With shrub roses choose four or five strong canes pointing in different directions.  Prune out wimpy or old ones.  Cut the healthy canes to outward facing buds, trying to keep the centers open for better light and air circulation.  Climbers and rambler canes need to be left longer so they can be securely fastened.  The more horizontal area of canes, the more flowers so if you have an upright trellis. Snake the canes back and forth and tie them with twine.  Don’t use twist ties as the metal will eventually cut into the canes.  This allows flowers all over the trellis instead of just at the top.  It takes time and a blood transfusion to get them trained but it’s worth it.

Now that the deadwood and non-essentials are gone the shrub can concentrate it’s energies on the healthy remaining parts.  Help your heavy feeders out (roses, lilies, clematis, peonies, phlox, etc.) with a shovel full of good compost mixed with organic fertilizer like pro-gro or plant tone.  Add it to the base of each plant or give a light coating to the whole bed.  This will get your plants off to a strong start and can prevent problems later on.  For all the acid-loving shrubs (rhodys, azaleas, hydrangea, etc.), use hollytone.

There is nothing like a good clean edge to make a garden look amazing.  Even a garden full of dandelions looks good with a neat edge.  Unfortunately there is no easy way.  The old edger or flat spade works best.  Go straight down at least three inches, then peel back the extra and discard.  Backfill the trench with mulch to grass level, pack it down with your foot and add a little more.  This keeps the grass at bay for most of the season.

Perennials are popping up now and you realize they’ve grown very wide!  (It happens to everything over the winter).  Perennials with thick root systems can be divided simply with a spade.  Lop off the extra and plant it elsewhere or pot it up and give it to your local garden club for their spring sales.  More fragile perennials like peonies need to be dug up and carefully separated by hand.  Keep three or four good “eyes” and replant at the same depth.  After dividing and replanting, reward your plants with a shot of the compost/fertilizer mix.

The rodents were very happy under all the snow this winter and I’m finding a lot of root damage.  It’s sad to lose a plant BUT now you have a “spot.”  You’ve been working very hard out there so treat yourself to a trip to the garden center!


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