How Does Your Garden Grow?

Louise Grabell

What do gardeners do in January? Speaking only for myself, gardening is never finished. Maybe that’s because I don’t hire anyone to take care of my estate. Truth be told, I’ve been secretly harboring the notion that at my age, maybe I need some help. But here’s my problem: No one can take care of my garden beauties the way I do. I’ve seen the horrendous pruning techniques going on in our neighborhoods, and it makes me sick to have to look at lollipop trees and pom-pom shrubs.

The landscapers you all hire must get a thrill from the vibrations of their gasoline-powered trimmers. If your tree needs to be raised off the ground to clear a walkway or driveway, they’ll come in with those magical musical clippers and chop off every branch that dares to grow downward, leaving you with a tree that is perfectly level at an altitude of six feet above the ground.

Go and look for yourself. Does a tree grow that way? Does every single branch stop growing downward in fear of being hacked off by your landscaper? And does that tree behave itself and never grow downward branches ever again? Of course not! In fact, having been buzz-cut, that tree will send down even more branches than ever before! Hmmmm…is this how our landscapers make their money? Obviously, they know that the more you prune, the more you have to prune…and the more you have to pay.

You’ve read my anti-pruning rants before, and maybe you’ve listened. But there are too many residents who just don’t put the time and thought into how to properly maintain their estates, and so we end up with live oaks, olives, and palo verdes trimmed to within an inch of their lives, only to spread out once again as Mother Nature intended. I’m not saying you should get out there with loppers and clippers like me, but at least demand that your landscaper do a proper job. Or, hire an actual professional to do the work. You will pay more up front, but you won’t have to do more pruning every year, and the savings is yours.

While we are on this topic, now is not the time to prune. The nights are still too cold, and frost or freeze is possible for another eight weeks. Wait until the beginning of February to do your pruning. Exceptions: Citrus set their buds shortly after harvesting, so prune them as soon as the fruit is gone. Texas mountain laurel will flower from the older branches, so you will sacrifice those gorgeous lilac-colored flower sprays if you prune now. Oleanders can be pruned at any time and quite severely if you need to shorten an overgrown bush. They will grow back. Bougainvillea should be pruned back to the first sign of life in the stems, and they’ll grow back nicely. Lantanas can be pruned almost back to the ground. Let them grow naturally; they don’t need trimming.

Master Gardeners invite you to visit their website for all up-to-date information and events for your community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 520-407-6459.

Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.