We had a beautiful spring day today. I’ve been meaning to get out and do some dormant pruning all winter at my brother’s house. He has a Peking Cotoneaster hedge (cotoneaster acutifolius) that has gotten a little out of control. By the way, here is how we pronounce cotoneaster in Wisconsin. Cuh-tone’-e-aster. Saying “Cotton Easter” will drive your local garden center personnel crazy. And if they pronounce it “Cotton Easter” you’d better run.
This species of cotoneaster is one of my favorites. The hedge is very tolerant of a lot of abuse. It likes full sun, but can take some shade. It will thin out in the shade and not be as lush. It has great fall color and the birds love it. It also has dark, glossy green leaves in the summer, and is a vigorous grower. While I do always encourage to buy local…especially with trees, I love Monrovia’s plants and their informative website. Here is the link to this particular shrub. http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/2436/peking-cotoneaster/
Now, back to the hedge. This particular hedge had been trimmed with a hedge trimmer for many years. It was over-grown and had really bad branching due to the constant hedge trimmers. I am not a huge fan of hedge trimmers. While they do have their place in the grand scheme of things, nothing can beat a proper pruning now and then.
My weapon of choice is a Felco 2. PLEASE invest in good equipment. It is worth it in the long run. I’ve had mine since 1998 and feel lost without them. The blades are easy to purchase and replace and I also keep a small sharpener handy. I have tried many other pruners and have not found any that I like as much as my Felcos. I also have a #6 for when I’m working with annuals and perennials. One important note is that when you are pruning a live plant, make sure you are using bypass pruners or loppers. These make a clean cut on the stem. Anvil style tools are good for dead wood. They end up crushing the stem, so you can see how that would be bad on a live plant. I’ll save that whole lecture for another day.
Annnndddd….back to the hedge. What I really wanted to do with the hedge was take several feet off of it, but with the warmer weather we’ve had I could see buds peeking out and knew that it was “waking up.” There are several benefits to pruning in the winter when the plants are defoliated. First of all, no foliage makes it easier to see the branching and what you need to prune out. No foliage also makes for easier clean-up! Yay! Second, There aren’t a bunch of insects and diseases running rampant this time if year. You can make nice clean cuts, remove a substantial part of the shrub, and have very few worries about insects and diseases moving in. Third, you’re not removing the food source for the plant. It hasn’t already expended resources pushing out growth, so cut away! When it starts to grow again, it will be fine.
As you can see from the pictures (well, maybe not–I didn’t take good pictures), I did end up taking over a foot off in some places. I went through and removed any limbs that would grow towards the lawn to help with lawn mowing. I removed crossing and rubbing branches and some of the larger, older canes as well. Wherever possible I tried to correct the “witches broom” affect remaining from the poor trimming in prior years. Due to the vigorous growth of this hedge, I know I’ll be giving it another trim over the summer. The summer trim I will do with the hedge trimmers just to keep it nice and tidy, and next winter I’ll go at it again to get it back under control.
I still have one more section of hedge to do. I had a helper with me today so I didn’t get as much done as I had planned! But there is nothing better than spending the first day of spring outside with a cute little munchkin!