Ask a Question forum: Trimming-rejuvenation

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Name: Sasha Palmer
Baltimore, MD (Zone 7b)
Live for the Love of it.
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sashaapalmer
Feb 23, 2017 7:07 AM CST
Hi,

We're having a very mild winter in Baltimore, Maryland. The butterfly bush already has new growth.

I've got a couple of bushes--forsythia and burning bush--that need some tlc. I was planning to cut them down to the ground while they're still dormant: after the last frost and before the new growth appears.

My concern is that in this warm weather they might come out of dormancy much sooner, and then we'll have cold weather again: winter's not over yet after all.

My question is: when will be the best time to do the rejuvenation trimming?

Should I wait until the danger of the frost has passed, even though by then the bushes will probably have new growth? Should I trim them as soon as I see that they're beginning to come out of dormancy? Should I skip the trimming altogether this spring?

Thank you very much,
Sasha
Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Yardenman
Feb 23, 2017 7:14 AM CST
I am cutting them now. A weatherman on the radio today said that in all recorded weather history, no February here in MD with only an inch of snow has been followed with an inch of snow in March or colder temps.

I think we have a very early Spring.
Name: Sasha Palmer
Baltimore, MD (Zone 7b)
Live for the Love of it.
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sashaapalmer
Feb 23, 2017 7:21 AM CST
Yardenman said:I am cutting them now. A weatherman on the radio today said that in all recorded weather history, no February here in MD with only an inch of snow has been followed with an inch of snow in March or colder temps.

I think we have a very early Spring.


Yes, another gorgeous day today -- looks like spring is here!

I think I'll go for it and cut the bushes down now. They're in a pretty bad shape, I don't want to wait another year to do this; and I think cutting them down later this year when they're not dormant might kill them.

Thank you very much for your help!
Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Yardenman
Feb 23, 2017 8:18 AM CST
sashaapalmer said:

Yes, another gorgeous day today -- looks like spring is here!

I think I'll go for it and cut the bushes down now. They're in a pretty bad shape, I don't want to wait another year to do this; and I think cutting them down later this year when they're not dormant might kill them.

Thank you very much for your help!


Welcome, but more importantly, plants react to weather, not our calendar. When they are ready for trimming, they are ready. I think there are only 2 good times for trimming trees an shrubs. While dormant, and after flowering.

After-flowering is obvious. In dormancy is trickier. This year, in MD, dormancy is almost over.
Name: Sasha Palmer
Baltimore, MD (Zone 7b)
Live for the Love of it.
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sashaapalmer
Feb 27, 2017 8:45 AM CST
Yardenman said:

Welcome, but more importantly, plants react to weather, not our calendar. When they are ready for trimming, they are ready. I think there are only 2 good times for trimming trees an shrubs. While dormant, and after flowering.

After-flowering is obvious. In dormancy is trickier. This year, in MD, dormancy is almost over.


It is tricky: now they're calling for 76 on Wednesday and 28 (low) on Friday... I've already trimmed forsythia, keeping my fingers crossed it'll make it. The other two bushes are dormant so far, hope they'll remain that way for several more days -- I'd much rather trim them after the possible frost on Friday. Weird weather..
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
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sallyg
Feb 27, 2017 9:18 AM CST
I've grown both for many years. I don't think you CAN kill them by pruning at any time. Rolling my eyes.
Butterfly bush - I've pruned two already, and found a young volunteer is well leafing out already. Forsythia should be blooming soon and that is not terribly early anyway, is it? March begins in two days. You've cut off all the flowers for this year on Forsythia.
Again, seriously, I feel sure you cannot kill them by pruning anytime.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Sasha Palmer
Baltimore, MD (Zone 7b)
Live for the Love of it.
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sashaapalmer
Feb 27, 2017 9:31 AM CST
sallyg said:I've grown both for many years. I don't think you CAN kill them by pruning at any time. Rolling my eyes.
Butterfly bush - I've pruned two already, and found a young volunteer is well leafing out already. Forsythia should be blooming soon and that is not terribly early anyway, is it? March begins in two days. You've cut off all the flowers for this year on Forsythia.
Again, seriously, I feel sure you cannot kill them by pruning anytime.


It's this sharp going from very warm weather to possibly below freezing that worries me a bit..I do have a feeling, though, they'll pull through. Thank you for the encouragement!
Name: Rick Moses
Derwood, MD (Zone 7b)
Hostas Ferns Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Forum moderator Region: United States of America
Region: Mid-Atlantic Region: Maryland
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RickM
Feb 27, 2017 9:40 AM CST
Sasha,
Forsythia blooms on year-old wood. Since you've already cut yours down, you won't get any blooms this year. Once the weather turns reliably warm., you should start to see new shoots appear. Also, since they've

From [b]Horticulture Magazine/b]
http://www.hortmag.com/weekly-tips/cultivation/pruning-forsythia

Most sources will say prune it just after it blooms, so you won’t sacrifice any flowers. You can prune it before it blooms, though, and that’s the best time to assess and work with its bare-naked shape. A good pruning job will result in more flowers in subsequent years, because more light will reach interior stems. (If your forsythia is blooming only at the end of its branches, its likely shading itself and needs to be thinned.)

Identify the oldest stems, or canes, and prune them all the way down to the ground. The oldest ones will likely be tallest, if you haven’t ever clipped them, and they will be the thickest, woodiest stems with a color duller than younger stems. They may be too thick at the base for bypass pruners; use a saw. Remove dead canes at the base too.

Next look at exterior canes and cut down any that are dipping to the ground and thus have the potential of rooting and sprouting new plants.

Cut out any canes that are growing in odd directions, such as through the center of the shrub and out the other side, or crossing other canes. The overall shape should be “up and out,” like a vase. Select a few canes to remove from the center of the shrub, too, to promote airflow and light penetration.

Cut out canes that have been “headed off” in the past—in other words pruned back some distance to a bud, but not all the way to the ground. These canes will have stems shooting straight up from the point where they were cut and lower, contributing an overall cluttered look.

The general advice is to never remove more than one-third of the total shrub when pruning. Do that for three years and by the third, you’ll have a rejuvenated shrub. However, with forsythia you may go so far as to cut all the canes to the ground in one go during late winter as a way to essentially start over. There will be no flowers at all that year, but fresh young stems will rise.

Keep in mind that it isn’t going to look “perfect.” Just do your best to remove the oldest canes, the dead ones and the most wayward ones, and always cut them right down to a stub, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Finally, if you cut forsythia branches for forcing in winter, always keep in mind that it’s a form of pruning! New growth will sprout from the point where you cut. It may be best to cut canes as low as you can reach (snow may make it difficult to reach the ground) and shorten them up to fit your vases after you’ve brought them inside.
Name: Sasha Palmer
Baltimore, MD (Zone 7b)
Live for the Love of it.
Image
sashaapalmer
Feb 27, 2017 11:37 AM CST
RickM said:Sasha,
Forsythia blooms on year-old wood. Since you've already cut yours down, you won't get any blooms this year. Once the weather turns reliably warm., you should start to see new shoots appear. Also, since they've

From [b]Horticulture Magazine/b]
http://www.hortmag.com/weekly-tips/cultivation/pruning-forsythia

Most sources will say prune it just after it blooms, so you won’t sacrifice any flowers. You can prune it before it blooms, though, and that’s the best time to assess and work with its bare-naked shape. A good pruning job will result in more flowers in subsequent years, because more light will reach interior stems. (If your forsythia is blooming only at the end of its branches, its likely shading itself and needs to be thinned.)

Identify the oldest stems, or canes, and prune them all the way down to the ground. The oldest ones will likely be tallest, if you haven’t ever clipped them, and they will be the thickest, woodiest stems with a color duller than younger stems. They may be too thick at the base for bypass pruners; use a saw. Remove dead canes at the base too.

Next look at exterior canes and cut down any that are dipping to the ground and thus have the potential of rooting and sprouting new plants.

Cut out any canes that are growing in odd directions, such as through the center of the shrub and out the other side, or crossing other canes. The overall shape should be “up and out,” like a vase. Select a few canes to remove from the center of the shrub, too, to promote airflow and light penetration.

Cut out canes that have been “headed off” in the past—in other words pruned back some distance to a bud, but not all the way to the ground. These canes will have stems shooting straight up from the point where they were cut and lower, contributing an overall cluttered look.

The general advice is to never remove more than one-third of the total shrub when pruning. Do that for three years and by the third, you’ll have a rejuvenated shrub. However, with forsythia you may go so far as to cut all the canes to the ground in one go during late winter as a way to essentially start over. There will be no flowers at all that year, but fresh young stems will rise.

Keep in mind that it isn’t going to look “perfect.” Just do your best to remove the oldest canes, the dead ones and the most wayward ones, and always cut them right down to a stub, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Finally, if you cut forsythia branches for forcing in winter, always keep in mind that it’s a form of pruning! New growth will sprout from the point where you cut. It may be best to cut canes as low as you can reach (snow may make it difficult to reach the ground) and shorten them up to fit your vases after you’ve brought them inside.


I've just gone out and cut the forsythia even lower, as close to the ground as I could. My forsythia is mature and I don't believe it's ever been trimmed. I figured the best way would be to cut it down all the way, even though it means no blooms this spring. I'm hoping for the rejuvenating effect Smiling

Thank you very much for the advice on trimming, it'll be very useful in the springs to come when I'll be doing the regular maintenance. Thank You!
Name: Rick Moses
Derwood, MD (Zone 7b)
Hostas Ferns Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Forum moderator Region: United States of America
Region: Mid-Atlantic Region: Maryland
Image
RickM
Feb 27, 2017 12:40 PM CST
If for some reason yours doesn't come back, let me know... I have plenty of starts in pots just waiting for a good home.

Actually, if you still have the branches that you cut off, you can cut off the newer growth and stick it in a hole or pot. It will root and then you have more to play with!
Name: Sasha Palmer
Baltimore, MD (Zone 7b)
Live for the Love of it.
Image
sashaapalmer
Feb 27, 2017 2:22 PM CST
RickM said:If for some reason yours doesn't come back, let me know... I have plenty of starts in pots just waiting for a good home.

Actually, if you still have the branches that you cut off, you can cut off the newer growth and stick it in a hole or pot. It will root and then you have more to play with!


Thank you very much!

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