Sawdust In My Eyes

Pruning time again. This year I have a Master Pruning Plan. In the front garden: magnolia, barberry, cotoneaster, photinia, snowberry, Oregon grape. Those last two are the most challenging, being ferocious suckerers. It’s not so much a matter of pruning as of deciding how much to cut down and dig up.

I’ve already done the easier ones, if one can describe as “easy” sawing a 2-inch thick magnolia limb at an awkward angle with sawdust blowing into one’s eyes, or balancing on one leg while zubbing away at an old barberry trunk, with spines poking into one’s scalp. And who would have guessed that barberry wood — and therefore its sawdust — is bright yellow?

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Pruning saw blade with barberry sawdust

The cotoneaster received the harshest treatment. It had grown amazingly the past decade or so, until it was obscuring a good deal of the house, including the number. I removed two major stems (2 inches diameter) that had lots of branches shooting off at weird angles, entangled with several seasons’ worth of clematis “Polish Spirit.” This is one of the C. viticella cultivars, reputed to be tough and vigorous, best managed by cutting down every year. I used to cut mine quite high, so as to encourage growth through the cotoneaster, and the last couple of years I didn’t cut it down at all. The lowest parts of the stems (a huge mass of them) were half an inch in diameter. I whacked the whole works back to less than a foot from the ground. Really hoping that “tough and vigorous” description is true, and new shoots will emerge in spring.

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Old Clematis stems

There is still a lot to do — shaping a tall Rosa glauca that had been bullied by the cotoneaster into an unbecoming lean, and, of course, doing battle with the snowberry and Oregon grape. Then there’s the back garden — trimming overgrown hollies and getting dead wood out from under the vigorous new canes of a huge climbing rose. Must acquire Kevlar suit.

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Post-pruning scene — stonework visible again!

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2 comments

    1. Ivy can be one of those “too much of a good thing” plants. I keep a close watch on it here and don’t hesitate to slash and yank. And yes, I’m always amazed by the amount of “biomass” I deal with on this 50 x 120 foot patch.

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