In this issue
Boxwood can be cut, even stumped
Renew evergreens' anti-dessicant
Rabbits: Just part of the big
Weeds developing resistance to
Pine needles not acid, hold that lime!
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then prune differently to keep them fuller
I have well established boxwoods along my front walk.
They are 3 to 4 feet in diameter and 4 feet tall. I have kept them
closely clipped at this size. If they grow any bigger, they will
block the driveway.
I have had success pruning large leafed
euonymus and golden privet down to about one foot. Will
this work with the green box or will it be just way too ugly for an
extended period of time?
If I take this approach should it be done in April or
should I wait until May? - R. -
Boxwood can be stumped back to bare wood. If they were healthy
and growing vigorously to begin with, their post-cut leafless wood
will be full and green again by summer.
Below: This and other boxwood hedges' pruning are pictured
cut, cut, cut: Boxwood pruning.
Cut them back to a year's growth smaller than the finished size
you want. If you want them two feet tall and wide, cut them down to
15 or 18 inches so that they can keep all the new growth they
produce in their comeback year. You'll simply snip the tips of the
new growth in late summer
Don't leave twiggy growth. Use loppers and make clean cuts back
to hefty limbs, which will produce stronger new growth. Removing
outer twigs also allows more light into the interior, stimulating
Don't wait until May when the shrubs are leafing out. Even a few
days of rapid spring growth represents a big energy expenditure for
a plant. To let that happen and then remove the new growth drains
the plant's resources just when it will need every bit of fuel to
rebound from stubs.
Such drastic pruning is probably best done in early April,
except in windy, open places. There, wait a week or two until the
weather is more unsettled. Sudden temperature changes common in
open areas can cause newly-exposed interior branches on a
stumped-back plant to die back beyond the cuts.
After the hard cut, changed routine
When you resume shearing, modify your routine. It will net you
fuller shrubs less likely to ever again need such a hard cut.
Shear each April to remove however many inches of growth the
branch tips produce in an average year. Then go over the shrub to
locate the thickest knuckles -- the oldest branch ends that have
become knots of thin twigs with less leaf than wood. With hand
pruners, reach into the interior of the shrub by 6 to 8 inches and
cut out the knuckle. Remove one of every five or six knuckles
annually and there will always be fresh growth coming from the
Don't worry that there are holes in the hedge outline when you
do the second step. Do this in April every year and any openings
left will fill quickly with growth from formerly shaded adjacent
side branches and dormant buds.
Time to re-coat broadleaf evergreens with protective spray.
"I sprayed my boxwood with Wiltpruf to keep them from drying out
over winter. I hear I should spray them again, now. Is this true?"
So asks P., echoing a question that's come up a lot recently.
It's true. Anti-desiccant on a broadleaf evergreen such as
rhododendron, azalea, holly or boxwood, or at-risk late-planted
items such as Japanese maple, can help the plant keep its leaves
and branches moist through winter. If it works, those plants may
not present us with scorched edges and dead twigs in spring.
However, sunlight, weather and time break down Wilt-pruf and
other anti-desiccants. Often, the protection fails by the time the
plant faces tits toughest times, during late winter's wide
temperature swings. So on a day when it's above 40 degrees, give
them another coating. Don't spray if it's colder, since the
material won't adhere and set up below 40 degrees.
Some problems have no solution. Don't expect much help from us
if you pose a "stumper" such as: How do I get rid of one type of
animal that has become a nuisance, without adversely affecting any
other animal, plant or person? Can't do it! Ecosystems are tangled
webs. There's no extracting one piece without unsettling something
else -- that rascally rabbit is part and parcel with all the
to those who sounded the alarm, predicting that
weeds would quickly build resistance to weed killers once the
herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) could be used around growing crops.
We genetically altered corn and soybeans to survive spraying with
glyphosate, then began using that chemical to kill weeds among
those crops during the growing season. In just 5 years, resistant
horseweed appeared in at least 3 States. Now, the existence of
glyphosate resistant ragweed has been confirmed. So don't throw
away your hoes, we may be engineering our way back to them.
to liming beds under pines on the assumption you should
counteract acidity from pine needles there. You can do more harm
than good. Apply lime or sulfur only when that application's based
on an accurate soil test. It's not unusual for soil to be very
alkaline under even very old pines. You can buy a soil test box and
instructions that will net you an excellent, inexpensive analysis,
including a fertilizer, lime or sulfur recommendation.
Originally published 2/19/05
Sponsored by Denise R.
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