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Pruning Shrubs for Winter Colour

As winter wears on within the Mid-Atlantic, duties within the backyard are few and much between. Nevertheless, one job that at all times stays is pruning. Winter is the right time to prune. The naked frames of bushes and shrubs permit gardeners to simply see any branches which might be misplaced with out leaves hindering our view. This can be a significantly good time of yr to form shrubs with colourful stems, equivalent to redtwig and yellow twig dogwoods (Cornus sericea, Zones 3–7), tartarian dogwood (Cornus alba, Zones 3–7), blood twig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea, Zones 4–7), and coral bark willow (Salix alba subsp. vitellina ‘Britzensis’, Zones 4–8).

tartarian dogwood
Since newer branches have the brightest bark, annual pruning retains this tartarian dogwood wanting sharp. Photograph: Jennifer Benner

All of those species might be pruned in the identical technique to retain their distinctive stem colours and to keep up a desired top and form. Since the very best colour is discovered on the brand new stems, pruning yearly, in late winter to early spring, will promote new development and due to this fact create the very best colour. Gardeners typically prune these shrubs in two methods: by selectively pruning or coppicing.

pruned red twig dogwood
Selectively eradicating a couple of third of the branches, leaving 4 to six inches above floor, preserves the plant’s pure behavior. Photograph: Michele Christiano

Selective pruning implies that sure stems, often about one-third of the branches on a multistemmed shrub, are utterly reduce. Select the stems which might be crossing, lifeless, or giant sufficient to have misplaced their vibrant colour. This methodology retains many of the plant intact and is right for areas the place you don’t want to keep up a particular top or width. Aesthetically, it permits the plant to maintain its pure behavior whereas nonetheless stimulating new development.

winer container with cut red stems
The coppiced stems of ‘Midwinter Hearth’ blood twig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Hearth’, Zones 4–7) make a daring assertion in a winter container. Photograph: Michele Christiano

A extra dramatic methodology is to coppice the shrub. Reducing all stems again to 4 to six inches above the bottom promotes ample new development whereas controlling the plant’s top and width. This can be a good resolution in a border with restricted house; the shrub stays compact as a result of it’s reduce periodically. Nevertheless, it’s best to wait a few years after planting and permit the plant to grow to be absolutely established earlier than you coppice. If a shrub is reduce too early after it’s planted, it’s going to present poor regrowth.

—Michele Christiano has labored in public gardens for many of her profession. She lives in southern Pennsylvania and at present works as an property gardener sustaining a personal backyard designed by Piet Oudolf.



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