flowers, garden, pruning

Pruning a clematis

My clematis, a jackmanii variety, has been growing wild for about 10 years.


I trim it back to the ground in the fall, and it successfully regenerates itself each spring.  I train it on a trellis to reach the height of the mailbox in the mailbox garden.  I’m pretty sure the mailman would appreciate some pruning efforts on this one!

I found an excellent guide for pruning most types of clematis.  Raymond Evison describes three ways to prune, depending on the variety as well as the results you are looking to achieve.  This is the suggested procedure for pruning my jackmanii –


Here’s a specimen that climbs the trellis to add the height in the lamp post garden.  I train it up a small trellis then attach some twine to the post for the tendrils that climb even higher.


This year, I’ve noticed many clematis in the neighborhood that appear to be more tame than mine, and I rather like that look.  They may be younger specimens, but I’m hoping that a little pruning care will tame my wild boys just a bit.


garden, pruning, trees

Pruning the crabapple

CrabappleI have been wanting to thin the death out of the crabapple tree for a few years now, and Sean helped me achieve it this past weekend!  The few moments of manpower he contributed really kept me focused – he had minimal time between periods of the NBA playoffs (!) so I had to make haste with my pruning decisions.  He loves the new chainsaw (as do I!) and he also loves the fact that he won’t be ducking under the low branches that we trimmed off when he’s out cutting the grass.

There are many good sources for advice on trimming your crabapple tree – I found a few just by Googling “Pruning Crabapple Trees”.


When to Prune a Crabapple

But is spring really the optimal time to be pruning the crabapple?  According to what I’ve read, the best time is late winter through early spring.  Considering the extreme cold and snow of this most recent winter, there was no way I was pruning in January or February!  The tree may have survived, but I’m not sure I would have.

The best time to prune is before the tree blooms in last spring, so I’m hoping I didn’t do too much damage by taking my shots at it in late April.  It’s still pretty cool outside, and with the leaves just starting to emerge, I was able to determine quite easily which branches were dead.


How to Prune a Crabapple

Some very basic guidance:

  • You should never take more than 1/4 of the branches (not that I’m counting!),
  • Remove the shoots that are heading straight up – they are suckers that should be removed
  • Any branches that cross or touch should be eliminated (a skiing friend use to tell me “x’s are bad”)
  • Don’t try to prune the entire tree in one season.  Less pruning is better than too much, just realize you should consider making this an annual event for at least 3 seasons.


Tools to Use

Most of my pruning was done with loppers and a long pruner with a pull rope.

But some of the larger branches had to be removed using a small 10″ chainsaw.  I found my small chainsaw on – it’s a GreenWorks brand that comes with a pole for higher pruning action!  As I’m still in training with this tool, I wasn’t comfortable using it any further than my hand could reach, but it’s a nice option for this future lumberjack!

Caution! Lady with a chainsaw!


It didn’t take 10 minutes of chainsaw action to bring the neighbors out to take a gander.  Of course, Elaine brought out a basket of cookies, which made Sean’s efforts totally worth it!

John wanted to know what we would be doing with all the trimmings – I will be cutting them up into kindling and firewood for a few summertime fires I have planned.  I found a great idea for the firepit and can’t wait to have Sean help me with that!


pruning, trees

Lessons in pruning .. .. ..

It strikes me that most of the shrubs and trees in my yard are growing out of control.  It also strikes me that my beautiful crabapple tree, which catches my attention this morning because it is about to burst into bloom, is a little lopsided.  The tree was planted a little close to the property line, and does tend to grow over the neighbor’s driveway.  As I look a little closer, it has been hacked on the side that stretches over the driveway.  My dear neighbor must have taken it upon himself to trim it back just a bit – that’s OK.  He’s retired and really doesn’t like to bother me.  Just makes me realize that I’m really neglecting my yard.  I spend so much time out there, weeding – planting – edging – cutting grass, but I never find the time to actually trim the trees and bushes.

Quite frankly, it scares me.

Of all the things I do in the yard, I’ve never quite mastered the art of pruning.  I have been eyeing up the lilac bush for years now.  It’s growing so tall that the blooms are out of reach.  My garden mentor once told me to trim it back to about 3 feet from the ground, and new growth will establish and bloom the next year.  You don’t want to attempt this pruning until after the blooms of spring are dead.  If you try it in the summer, you will prune the blooms for next year.  Of course, with the way that lilac has grown, I’m really going to need to get a chainsaw and get on a ladder to bring it down.  Chainsaws on ladders . . . sounds like an accident waiting to happen.  Are those bees actually drilling holes in my fence?  Sweet distractions . . .

The crabapple itself needs to be thinned.  There are so many dead branches that could be removed, as well as suckers that grow straight up.  Garden mentor showed me once that if the branches cross, you have to trim one back.  Make sure to trim the entire branch, so you don’t make the tree sick.  Of course, this might mean climbing the tree or a ladder, and just thinking about that exercise makes me want to think of pulling those dandelions out.  Sweet distractions . . .

Goal for post-blooming . . . prune that lilac, and trim that crabapple.  Now that I’ve written it, it will surely happen.


deck garden, pruning

Lamenting the wisteria . . . .

So the azalea, rhododendron, and hostas all survived the Freeze warnings we have had for the past couple of weeks.  I walked out on the deck yesterday, and to my horror, the wisteria that I’ve been waiting for 10 years to bloom got bit by the frost.  I cannot believe I did not think to cover this vine; it has been trained up the railing of my deck and was going to look spectacular this spring.  

I have had this wisteria for a good 10 years, and for the first 8 I could not figure out why it wouldn’t bloom.  I knew it would take a few years, as I bought it as a very young plant.  I patiently trained it up the two story flight of stairs to the deck.  I googled it, only to discover that you need to prune it to encourage blooms.  

So two falls ago, I pruned it for the first time.  Last summer, we had about 4 sprays of blooms, and I was so very excited!  This past  fall I pruned it very aggressively, and with our early spring, it was holding hundreds of possible blooms. 

I took Son#2 out to show him the blooms, and to plead with him not to pick them off.  They were the sort of tempting vegetation he loves to destroy, and I wanted to make sure he knew that it wasn’t to be messed with.  He understood.  

But I forgot my dear wisteria.  As I went out to the deck yesterday, I discovered the hundreds of blooms are dead.  The hostas in the backyard are protected and I never even stepped into the back to cover things.  They were going to survive.  But my wisteria won’t be blooming again this year.  I must be patient and wait yet another year.