Learn the When before the How
When to prune? most people ask How to prune, but the real question is: When to prune? Whether you have a garden or three window boxes hanging outside your kitchen window (as far as I’m concerned, both are gardens), they usually contain a different variety of plants. Here is what’s most important: As you look around your home garden, it’s easy to find plants that need pruning, that’s where HOW to prune comes into the picture. BUT, the WHEN is just as important and should be your first consideration. Learn to look at your garden from a WHEN perspective, see what plants need to be pruned at certain times, and only when they are ready start thinking about how to do it.
You are king of your garden, so walk through your magical kingdom and enjoy! But, remember to stop every now and then, take a close look at your plants, some need to be pruned and others don’t. Your Hibiscus obviously needs pruning (Hibiscus usually do), his branches are too long and he’s blocking the path. Then there’s the rose bush, her leaves have turned yellow and she needs your help... you know How to prune. (and if you don't know how, you can come here to learn), but! knowing how won’t help if you missed out on the when.
When then?? its quit simple really - nothing really happens in your garden during the winter dormancy period. No one requires special pruning, with the exception of annuals of course. Most of your plants will meet your sharp pruner blades from late winter, just as the temperatures rise, or at the end of dormancy. From this point on there will be a bunch of different pruning acts you will need to do until mid-fall and in the weeks leading up to dormancy. That's the cycle in general, with some exceptions of course, but that’s why when to prune is as important as how to prune.
When to prune? In this specific garden – see picture – the answer is clear, not just yet. There’s nothing to prune here, at least not for the next 8 to 12 months. Thereafter, pruning will be used for maintenance, but you can definitely see the when, despite the different variety of plants.
I suggest you mark them with small plant markers - I found them very useful, not only for writing and remember the plant name, but to make a note to myself regarding the right season to prune. You will find all the info you need about the when at the nursery, then when you’re ready for the How, call on me, share your thoughts and questions and we’ll get through the how to prune together.
I just can’t wait , can I prune now? yes you can. If your plant has grown and developed, look for the small plant markers, read, learn and see if you can find a plant with a "when to prune" that fits your impatience and is ready to go – now!
A word of caution!!! Even if you found that most of your plants can be pruned right now, right this season, don't panic thinking you now have to prune your whole garden at once. Even if the plants are ready, it’s your kingdom and you decide. So take it slowly, be patience, enjoy the process and get as much as you can from your new hand pruning hobby.
Well done!! Your garden looks awesome! Now it’s time to start pruning here and there. Seriously, see that mess over there? 30-60 minutes once a week for a little quality time with your plants, and everything will look different. Now please, don’t prune it all at once. Some of the plants will simply have to wait until next season – that’s ok. So, take your pruners, step outside, and take your time to fall in love with your garden.
Ready to move on to the "How"?
Which pruning shears would be most suitable?
My preferred pruning shears - Truth is, in the picture above many of the plants needed to be harvested rather than pruned. A pruning knife or hand pruner with long sharp blades would be perfect for this garden.
Providing general guidelines on 'how to prune' any kind of plant is important, but there are plants, and there is YOUR plant. So despite there being loads of information on this site, I also provide specific and personalized support. If something wasn't clear, or you're not sure of your plant's name, simply send me a picture with your question. Use the form below and I'll get back to you. In the mean time, see what others are asking.