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Name: Jennifer Stagg
Louisville, Kentucky (Zone 6b)
Every garden can be a zen garden!
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Jenstagg67
Oct 7, 2015 6:45 AM CST
I am a very new gardener and my yard is currently quite chaotic due to my lack of attention. I would like to shape up the big plants and bushes in my yard but am unsure when the best time to do that would be. I'm looking for any tips regarding the care of, but especially pruning and shaping of clematis, crepe myrtle and forsythia. Also, is there a certain time to prune dead branches and to shape live ones from a tree that flowers in the spring. I don't know what it is called but it is beautiful and I don't want to cause damage to it. Thank you! Jennifer
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Oct 7, 2015 7:22 AM CST
Jennifer, for the most part pruning is best done in the fall after the leaves are gone on deciduous trees and shrubs. Winter is fine too, and as long into early spring as the plants are dormant. Once you start seeing new growth, I wouldn't prune any more unless you need to do some shaping in summer if branches are getting in your way.

Clematis have 'special needs' though. You should wander over to the Clematis forum (click on this link) http://garden.org/forums/view/clematis/ and post your pruning question there because there are I think three different methods for different kinds of clematis.

To avoid the very common, but SO wrong practice of "crepe murder" on your Crepe Myrtles I think @dave is your guy for a link on how to shape and thin those lovely trees properly.

Forsythia is a vigorous shrub and as I recall the best method to keep it from getting too big and sprawling is to cut out two or three of the biggest (oldest) trunks right at ground level each winter while the plant is dormant. At our house in Utah, I had a Forsythia that had been viciously pruned into a ball shape for years, and after I began thinning it properly, it responded nicely to make a natural cascading shape again. Be aware that the spring bloom on Forsythia happens on last summer's new growth so that's why you don't want to cut too much off at once and don't cut from the ends of the branches. If you do, you won't have much bloom.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Oct 7, 2015 7:49 AM CST
Hurray! Welcome! Welcome to ATP, Jenstagg67

Forsythia - (Others may offer different methods)
My original gardening teacher (when I was 7) told me to tie a 'twist tie' like from a bread bag (or colored yarn could be used) onto the base of each forsythia stem once a year - one color per year. Then in early Spring just after the plant finishes flowering, cut away the stems that have 3 twist ties - the oldest stems. It may sound tedious by with the fast pace of our lives today but adding the twist ties can be a very Zen thing to do.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Jennifer Stagg
Louisville, Kentucky (Zone 6b)
Every garden can be a zen garden!
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Jenstagg67
Oct 8, 2015 11:11 AM CST
Elaine, I will head over to the clematis thread for specific answers. I've also heard of crepe murder but think it may be a cultural norm in Louisville, as all the crepe myrtle here seem to be bushes and I, being a transplanted Texan, long for my crepe myrtle trees! Maybe I can set an example! Greene, I'm never above any type of Zen activity. Not nearly enough of those to go around, especially the ones handed down through the generations! Thanks to both of you!
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Oct 8, 2015 11:41 AM CST
Jen, if you haven't already found it, here is the link to the ATP article on pruning clematis:

http://garden.org/ideas/view/goldfinch4/1280/The-Importance-...
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Oct 8, 2015 4:47 PM CST
Any pruning of shrubs in the fall should be done after the plant is dormant in the winter. You don't want to encourage any new growth before winter. Pruning will encourage the shrub to put out new growth. However, if you prune shrubs the bloom on the previous season's wood in spring, like forsythia, you could be eliminating branches that might flower. The best rule of thumb for pruning flowering shrubs is to prune right after they're done blooming. Dead branches can be removed at any time.

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