Winter pruning

My most recent birthday gift from spouse — a gift I requested —  was a pruning saw with an extension pole that allows you to reach branches high overhead.  I suppose this is another measure of just how obsessive a gardener I am, and that’s okay with me. I love this new tool.

Of course, it turns out that when it’s fully extended, I’m not strong enough to quite manage it. So spouse and I have been doing the pruning together. Mostly I point out what needs cutting, he cuts, and I haul the branches into piles for later collection. He had to break out the chainsaw for some larger branches, and the hand-held pruning saw has also seen plenty of action lately.

I’ve heard some gardeners insist that if you site plants correctly, you should never need to prune, except to repair occasional damage to trees or shrubs. And I do strive to locate every plant in its ideal location, but sometimes I guess wrong.

Often, the plant grows larger than the catalog says it will; our soils seem to be inherently fertile and well-drained, and some newcomers I’ve added respond with great enthusiasm to those conditions.  We’ve also discovered the benefits of limbing up some trees and shrubs to create shaded but open ground beneath the growing woody specimens.

Limbing up increases air flow, which reduces the fungus problems that can plague our humid summers. And it makes room for the addition of shade-loving perennial flowers and ferns. These not only add visual appeal, but they complete the layers of an ideal piedmont forest: canopy, sub-canopy, shrub, and herb.

By mimicking the vegetation layers of the native piedmont forest, I create habitats for more wildlife species, and those new habitats generate opportunities for additional well-suited native plants to move in.

Whether they are planted by birds, wind, or water, these new native immigrants finding homes in my yard are welcome surprises. Their arrival tells me we’re doing something right — creating places for more piedmont natives to call home.

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  1. #1 by Mike Sepelak on January 27, 2011 - 2:32 pm

    … I point out what needs cutting, he cuts…

    An arrangement I can totally relate to. 🙂

    I’m enjoying your blog.

  2. #2 by piedmontgardener on January 27, 2011 - 3:04 pm

    Thanks, Mike. There’s something to be said for the practical distribution of labor. 🙂

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