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Pruning hydrangeas and other forgetful jobs

Growing these Beautiful blue hydrangeas may be a challenge for some gardeners.
Growing these Beautiful blue hydrangeas may be a challenge for some gardeners.
photo courtesy of

It happens every spring. You are cleaning out the garden, removing last year’s seed heads and cheering for every green sprout and new bud you see. The path stops at a certain plant that rubs you the wrong way time after time and a call to battle rises in your gut.

This particular garden gem never really performs in your beds the way it does at the neighbour’s house. Or maybe it doesn’t even come close to the potential the catalog or plant tag promised. Gardeners everywhere have these adversaries and confront them year after year in an epic clash.

OK, maybe it’s not as dramatic as all of that.

But there are sure to be certain plants that do challenge you more than others. Some gardeners have a habit of removing those plants to make way for more obedient ones. Others take it personally or enjoy the challenge and begin every growing season with a new strategy to make that plant thrive.

Pruning plays a big part in this task. It could be that you’re pruning it too early (snipping off the spring buds that haven’t quite woken). Or you are heading the plant too low, putting it at a disadvantage and forcing it to grow from the bottom again. Other plants need to be cut down every year in order to thrive.

It can be confusing and gardeners forget from year to year what tactic was more successful.

Invest in an informative pruning book that you can use for handy reference. It’s also a fabulous idea to keep a gardening journal, recording what tasks you completed in the garden, when you did them and the results throughout the season. You’ll find yourself referring to that journal time after time, taking the pressure off of your memory.

Some plants, like hydrangeas for instance, have different varieties that require opposite treatments and care. Oak-leaf hydrangeas can be cut to the ground every year, but for a tall, 6 foot shrub they should be left alone and only pruned as desired for shape. Bigleaf hydrangeas are fussy – the oldest stems should be cut in half each spring, the shortest are cut to the base and the ones with flat flower buds should simply be left alone.

Common or regular hydrangeas should be headed at 2 or 3 buds higher than last year’s length. That is where your gardening journal comes in handy; you should have recorded how high it grew in previous years. Also remember not to cut off stems that didn’t bloom the previous year, as they will flower for you in the coming season.

Gardening can be a complicated, but incredibly rewarding hobby. Using tools for strategy like reference books and journals, your tactics and hard work will be much more successful. That certain plant is bound to become all it was meant to be.


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