Green Thumbs Down...

...to Timid Cuts that Create a Tangle

Misunderstanding "cut hard" can lead to our least favorite pruning

Since we cut hard in spring in order to simplify things and save time, it's ironic that promoting this tactic can lead to our least favorite pruning chore. That's pruning to clear up where a timid gardener has been leaving stubble.

Stubble is trouble!

A gardener who loves panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata, with conical white, green-white or pink tinged flower clusters in late summer) has too little room. So she keeps the plant down to about five feet with a hard cut in spring. After about five years she realized that stubble is trouble, so we sorted it out for her.

A panicle hydrangea, repeatedly cut back to about six inches, has become a mess of stubs. Some of the wood is dead, its buds crowded out. Most of the stubs are so small in diameter they can only give rise to spindly stems, and those will be so crowded by neighbors they tend to grow out rather than up.

A panicle hydrangea, repeatedly cut back to about six inches, has become a mess of stubs. Some of the wood is dead, its buds crowded out. Most of the stubs are so small in diameter they can only give rise to spindly stems, and those will be so crowded by neighbors they tend to grow out rather than up.

It's tough to find a place to begin sawing. Fortunately, once you make this first cut to open up the thicket, every other cut is quicker.

It's tough to find a place to begin sawing. Fortunately, once you make this first cut to open up the thicket, every other cut is quicker.

Phew, done! In the future, all we will make each spring are these same 3 or 4 saw cuts.

Phew, done! In the future, all we will make each spring are these same 3 or 4 saw cuts.