Pruning, Yes You Can!

I often get asked about proper pruning techniques. How? When? Why? What about Hydrangeas!?! Many people seem to be tentative about tackling this task. Driving around the metro area I see many badly pruned plants so I can understand why people would have doubts about their abilities. There are professionals who can help but there are also many companies out there taking short cuts with sheering tools that I would ban from touching my plants!

Once you feel confident in pruning technique it can be very meditative and rewarding, I promise. I learned to prune when I worked in the Founder’s Memorial Garden on the University of Georgia campus. Day after day I had practice and my patient supervisor would check my work explaining ways I could improve. It does take a while to get confident and if you are interested in learning you have several ways you can proceed. 


Start with some written instruction such as the linked image above from Monrovia. The University of Georgia Extension Service has publications as well. The one I have linked below has some great diagrams to help readers understand pruning. Reading articles like these really helped me understand how to “think like a plant”. I have heard pruning described as a game of chess in that the pruner must think several moves in advance to understand what their action is telling the plant. 
If you are a person who learns by reading and like diagrams you will be happy with these links. In addition, or if you learn by doing, you will want to check out local gardening calendars for workshops that will teach pruning. Getting to see someone showing the cuts they choose as well as getting practice with a teacher will instill much more confidence. Local garden celebrity

Walter Reeves

keeps an updated garden related

events calendar

on his blog and

Cobb Extension

 (or the Extension in your county closer to you) is a good source of teaching events. 

Many people are confused on when to prune, especially Hydrangeas. This confusion is caused by some plants that bloom on “new wood” and some that bloom on “old wood”. New wood is the growth of the plant since the winter dormant period. If the plant blooms on new wood and you prune in winter, it will still flower because the buds will be set on the new growth. Conversely, if the plant blooms on old wood, you need to prune after it blooms for the season or you risk cutting buds set on last season’s growth. If the plant doesn’t bloom (or isn’t grown for its blooms) it is less crucial when you prune because you won’t potentially be cutting off much coveted flower buds! So if you can’t remember when it is okay to prune you can look up if it blooms on old or new wood!

Learning to prune can seem daunting but like any other skill, once you understand the method and get some practice under your belt it can be a very rewarding skill to have!


A flyer for an upcoming pruning workshop.



praise for bottlebrush buckeye

The first Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) I “met” was an old one in the Founder’s Memorial Garden in Athens, GA. It still sticks in my memory as one of my favorite shrubs and I consider it tragically underused in landscape design.

During my undergraduate and graduate years in the landscape architecture program at University of Georgia, I had the privilege of working in the Founder’s Garden in exchange for reduced tuition. The reason I consider it a privilege is I was able to truly know the garden and all it’s plants in every season, and learn what it took to care for them. A typical landscape architecture education does not include dirt under the fingernails!


the coarse textured leaves can be seen stretching out over a small pool in the Founder’s Garden

The Founder’s Garden Buckeye bloomed right at (what was) the time of UGA’s graduation in June. The air was hot and muggy and the large but delicate white flowers seemed oblivious to the weather. The leaves typically stay unblemished through the long summer and a yellow fall color can be expected. 

The Bottlebrush Buckeye is native to the woodlands of Georgia as well as Alabama and Northern Florida. It will bloom best in part shade on the edge of the tree line but can also be placed in full shade. It is slow growing but will eventually get large with an eight to ten foot spread. 

although the main reason for enjoying the bottlebrush buckeye is the flowering period, it holds value in the landscape in every season

I made sure to check that this interesting, native shrub is currently available in the trade. MNI wholesale nursery has them available in a 5 and 7 gallon size. If you don’t have a landscaper who can get it for you there, you may try Pike’s. Very rarely I have seen them available as mature balled and burlapped product and I would highly recommend that if you can get it for a more instant show!