Winterizing Garden – Pruning

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 17,918
    Professional horticulturalist Mitch Baker demonstrates how to winterize an ornamental garden including pruning tips.

    Mitch Baker: Hi! I am Mitch Baker with American Plant in Bethesda. We are talking about winterizing your ornamental garden; right now pruning is the topic. Fall is a great time to prune many trees, shrubs and plants in your garden. We are going to start with this Shrub rose; this is one of the Knock Out roses.


    Now the only thing we are going to do this fall is take out some of this growth that may be damaged by ice or snow during the winter. The hard pruning, we will wait until spring to do that. So right now just a light pruning, just pruning out that leggy growth, the tall leggy growth that would be damaged by ice and snow, the weight of ice and snow. The reason we wait until spring to do the hard pruning, chances are there is going to be some winter die back anyway and in spring we will be able to evaluate the extent of that damage and prune accordingly.


    Also, pruning in the spring like that stimulates with nice, strong flash of new growth and that’s what we want. This is strong flash of new growth. So pruning now or trimming now, we are just taking out that tall leggy growth. Again, that may be damaged by the weight of ice and snow. I think that’s all for pruning this rose needs for the winter. Let’s go take a look at a crape myrtle.


    Alright, just like the rose, we are only going to do a light pruning on this crape myrtle this fall. The hard pruning, we will wait until spring for the same reason that it will stimulate growth at that time and that's what we want, that strong flash of new growth. So the only thing we are going to take out now is just that tall, thin, leggy growth that may be damaged by the weight of ice and snow. So that means maybe taking out 25 to 30 percent of the growth now.


    Now another reason we want to leave a lot of this growth on, through the winter is because of moisture storage. In these stems, in the vascular system, a great deal of moisture is stored and being used by these plants during the winter. So if we do this hard pruning in the fall we are taking away a lot of that moisture reserve. We want to leave that on the plant, so that the plant can utilize it through the winter if it needs it then we do the hard pruning in the spring.


    So now we are going to trim back some perennials for the winter. But I like to wait until the last opportunity to do that because a lot of these flowering perennials like rubecia and coneflower produce a tremendous amount of seeds and those seeds are a valuable food source for a lot of birds that we would want to attract to the garden. We create this great habitat; we want to attract various forms of wildlife. So providing a food source for those birds is an important part of creating a habitat in your garden.


    So waiting until the last moment to trim them back is a good idea and at that time we take them right down to the ground; these are woody stem perennials that come back from the root system each year. So we just take those right down to the ground, that's all that is to it. But again waiting until the last minute is a real advantage. So I think that takes care of all the pruning that we need to do in the garden this fall; next step, fertilizing.