What's Coming Up #219: Splayed arbs, sexy spicebush, cutting arbs and clipping yews every which way

Hate to miss spring in your garden? Take it to work. Think of the smiles you'll create even displaying one hellebore and one crocus with a redtwig dogwood stem and a single leaf of Aum itailcum.

Hate to miss spring in your garden? Take it to work. Think of the smiles you'll create even displaying one hellebore and one crocus with a redtwig dogwood stem and a single leaf of Aum itailcum.

What's Coming Up garden news

Issue #219, March 20, 2016
Janet Macunovich and Steven Nikkila help you grow

The bees are busy, out working the very first blooms (they were out on earlier flowers, WEEKS before this puschkinia bloomed!). Take a cue, go out and get ahead of the game!

The bees are busy, out working the very first blooms (they were out on earlier flowers, WEEKS before this puschkinia bloomed!). Take a cue, go out and get ahead of the game!

We aim for quick answers...

...with honest reality checks and minimal entanglement with if's and but's. That's especially important this time of year when every fleeting moment counts. So when we were asked, "Can we cut this arborvitae?" we said "Yes!" and "Just go do it. We'll tell you about contingencies later."

Hoo boy, preparing those contingency reports took some time! We narrowed them down to five typical examples after sifting the tale from several hundred photos going back over six years. We're pleased to present them to you in just three scenarios and 40 pictures, all in time for you to get out there and make an informed cut on that hedge or corner evergreen.

Something very similar happened when we were queried about overgrown yews. We flashed back to the greatest short advice we ever got from a mentor, "Just cut them. No matter when." Perhaps you'll simply take that advice now and look at our four yew-do's later.

A resigned Green Thumbs Up and Down to:

Splayed arbs: Thumbs down and right back up to snow-splayed arborvitaes. We wish they didn't happen, explore the best solution, then propose how to live with the reality.

From our Tip Cuttings department:

One arborvitae pruning question nets a round of answers.

Arbs' spring check: Well-shaped arbs start with a spring check up. Don't trust your memory, check an old photo and use that plus this how-to to nip those wayward branches and top heavy limbs.

Arbs cut in time: The best approach to pruning an arborvitae is to begin cutting it as soon as it reaches whatever height and width you can allow. See that simple but slightly scary process here.

Arbs cut hard: Sometimes there's no choice but to chop an arborvitae back a few years all at once. Can it come back? Yes, if you follow these steps and can give it some time.

Arbs long recovery: Reality check! An arborvitae's recovery can be a long road. Before you tackle an arb that's been left on its own in a tough place for a long time, join us for this look at phase two in the rehabilitation of one such tree.

Our Mentors bequeath us:

The courage to cut hard, "whenever"! Twenty-some years ago we spoke with internationally renowned horticulturist Ralph Shugert, then working for the U.S.' largest grower of yews in Grand Haven, Michigan. To our every question about cutting back yews, regardless of season or condition, his reply was the same, "Just cut it!" One day we hope to be as succinct as Ralph. 'Til then, we offer:

Yews cut hard: Cutting 'way back is harder on the gardener than the yew. Can they grow back from stubs? Yes. Will they? Most do, some won't. Although there's no certainty in predicting which will and which won't we do know one spring's wait will tell that tale. If you have an overgrown yew, gather your courage and grace. You need both to accept that the cut is the necessary first step either way --to recovery or removal..

Yews rejuvenated: Ah to grow young again! If only we were as resilient as yew wood, to come back with gusto after having been stripped to the bone. How much to cut, why thinning is critical, and what to expect when during the recovery.

Yews creep: Don't let them get away from you. Being soft on them and leaving just that inch or two of soft new greenery is a great way to slowly wall off the outside world.

Yews normal cut: So good to know there's a very simple way to keep them forever small and lush. Here's how to do that so you never have to make that brave hard cut again.

In the 45 mph garden:

 Spicebush sex: When hazy woods lead to dusty revelation. For the gardener hoping for fruit from a spicebush, now is the time to watch for the haze and check for pollen dust.

Please check the Forum for quick advice:

As always, if the things you're wondering about aren't in this issue be sure to post them as questions on our Forum. We're there every day sharing advice and watching the discussion to decide what topics to cover next.

Continuing thanks for your support

You are so wonderful! Your donations are making a big difference -- articles are really starting to flow from GardenAtoZ.com to our new home at GardenAtoZ.org. Having others to help with the move has meant we can keep working on new material and be able to link it smoothly to what's already been posted.

We'll keep at it, so glad to be of help to this great gardening community.

This year, when our words and pictures help you, please consider donating to GardenAtoZ.org so we can continue sharing the best, most practical advice we can. If you can help, send your check payable to GardenAtoZ to Janet & Steven at 120 Lorberta, Waterford, MI 48328 or donate via Paypal (email to Steve@GardenAtoZ.com from your Paypal account).

Come learn and garden with us

The spring rush has begun and we're out there employing every trick we know to keep up with plants' growth, increase their beauty or production, and head off trouble before it starts. You can join us to hear about it at various libraries and garden centers, or meet us outdoors to Garden By Janet and Steven where you'll learn by watching or helping.

We offer hands-on opportunities because we know gardeners learn best by doing. No charge! Just watch our calendar for tasks and towns that suit you. Then contact us as described in the calendar listing. We'll give you the specific location for that day's gardening and keep you updated on any last minute weather changes.

Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa)

Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa)

Late-breaking news

Glory of the snow and the sweetly scented mighty-mite, Puschkinia are just two of the Spring Bulbs profiled in our last issue.

You might have missed our Bulb Cover-up article, a garden design aid which joined issue #218 a bit late. That article is also a gateway to a very useful plant combination chart for cover-ups via doubling up as well as many other perennial plant selection lists (find them on newly-linked-in What's Coming Up #196.)

Puschkinia

Puschkinia