Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pruned vs Un-pruned ... the face-off

Last fall, I took a maintenance class from the Arboretum and one of principles we learned was pruning. So I promptly went home and pruned one of my "dwarf" Korean Lilacs - and I use that term loosely.

The behemoths had gotten so large (and this was 2 years ago) that it had prompted my former neighbor (and former gardening mentor) to look at me seriously and say, "Those have to get cut back." Tough love.

Back then (3 years ago - how time flies), I was so green (not green-thumbed) that if anything grew I lept for joy -- even if it was garlic mustard (again close your eyes and visualize my neighbor yanking out a huge garlic mustard from my backyard saying, "Now this is a weed." "But it's so tall...," I wanted to say.) Pruning was not in my vocabulary because that meant taking away green and I was all about adding, not subtracting.

So it took a lot of courage, not to mention 4 years of tending to my royal subjects, settling land disputes, traffic congestion, and illegal immigration, before I was ready to bring out the big guns - i.e. the pruners - and tackle the Lilacs.

But I'll admit, I am a wuss. I only pruned back one of them ... just in case. I don't want all my eggs in one pruning basket. So which one will it be? Which one will reign supreme? The Pruned or the Un-Pruned?Can't wait to see what happens!


Sue said...

LOL The first house my husband and I bought was on 3 lots, and was my first experience with large gardens. I was like you, and if I liked the looks of a plant, would let it grow to see what the flowers looked like. One day, a co-worker of my husban, who grew up on a farm came over and wanted to know why I was growing buttonweed! She said she and her siblings used to get paid to pull them in the fields.

I hope your pruned bush grows well.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

My problem with pruning is that it is part art, part science, and I seem to be better with the science part. Cut it all the way to the ground & it grows back fresh and strong. Cut off the wrong branch & the shrub looks terrible. So I share your trepidation about pruning, but I suspect the pruned Lilac will have bigger flowers and a better overall look. I await the results of your scientific experiment.

Sande said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting on my April Bloom Day blog. I was out of town right after that and just got back today.
Yup, pruning is traumatic. I had my husband prune our the old growth out of our lilacs this year after about 20 years of not pruning. They look shockingly small now!
But it's all for the good, right?

Rose said...

I'm very timid about pruning, too. I think it depends on how much you like a plant--two years ago, I had had it with this straggly-looking shrub near the garage and finally hacked off about half of it. Last year it bloomed like I'd never seen it before, and I finally identified it as a flowering quince. I probably wouldn't have been so brave with something I really liked:) Can't wait to see how your lilacs turn out!

Thanks for visiting me; I apologize for not dropping by before--I know I intended to. I'll be back!

kate smudges said...

You are a brave woman! Pruning and I do not seem to get along too well, unless I'm pruning something that I don't like so well. It always sounds so easy in books, but I have a hard time figuring out which shoots to remove, how far to cut back etc. It will be wonderful watching how your pruned vs. unpruned lilacs do. Happy spring to you!

Annie in Austin said...

Rosemarie, did you say you came home from the class in fall and started pruning?
You may have cut off a lot of this spring's flower buds.

When I volunteered at the lilac park we were assigned the annual task of pruning a long hedge of Korean lilacs way back, taking out about 1/4 of oldest growth and evening up long shoots. The horticulturalist had us do this within 3 weeks after spring bloom was over because the lilacs can start making new buds as early as June.

Hope you managed to leave on some flower buds!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Anonymous said...

I tool Annie's approach for my 20 year old DKLs. I maintained a nice cool tunnel at the south side of my house. All plants had old stems pruned about two inches above the soil line. The problem was that some of these old pruned stubs died off, showing no sign of the fungal rot taking place in their feeder roots. Three plants have since died. What did Annie's lilac park do about dead stumps pruned in a prior year?

Annie in Austin said...

Rosemarie - I'll try to answer this question.

My days with the park were a long time ago, anonymous, and I don't know what happened after I left Illinois for TX.

What I do know is that because the lilacs were pruned regularly from the beginning, whatever branches we cut weren't super large in diameter. We used sharp Felco pruners belonging to the park district and when we cut a branch low to the ground, the cuts were always done on a slant, like rose bushes. That's supposed to help water run off so the cuts stay drier. We volunteers were only there one day a week - don't know if the horticulturalist used any kind of anti-fungal treatment.

I'm sorry your lilac tunnel didn't work out - it sounds very cool!


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