Sunday, November 8

.Pruning Juniper

Tory's parents came up to visit last weekend. This is the third year in a row, and it's slowly becoming an established tradition for them to visit on Halloween weekend.

It's a great chance for them to visit the grandkids, and Tory always conscripts her father to tend the plants in the yard. Bill has a degree in horticulture, so he's quite helpful.

Saturday morning we worked in the yard. After Bill was done helping Tory with the roses, I asked him to help me prune the juniper hedge in front of the house. It's been years since it received any serious attention, and I wanted to reign it in. The general idea was to shorten it to better expose the planter box ledges, which will actually get planters in a future project. I also want to train it to thicken up in some spots, and to stop it from spreading higher up or farther out. I like the way it hides the basement windows in the wall behind it, but it could look neater.

Before Bill's visit, I'd done a little research on pruning evergreens. I found one or two helpful articles, like "How to Trim Juniper Shrubs." I learned that you can't shear them, they must be carefully pruned, one branch at a time. If you cut past the green, it will never grow back. And behind the green, there's an ugly mess of tangled, matted branches.

Bill showed me how to cut the hedge. Pick out a branch you want to trim, and follow the end of it back with your hand to a point where a tributary branch splits off, and make the cut at that spot.

Cuts are supposed to be made at an angle, and just above the collar (the round swelling at the base of the branch, where it grows out from the parent). Cutting at an angle is supposed to keep rainwater from standing on the exposed cut, which could foster disease.

It used to be considered good practice to paint over large cuts with certain resinous products designed just for the purpose. This was to seal the exposed wood to keep insects and disease out. However, contemporary wisdom is that these products don't help, and could actually cause harm.

Bill also explained that now was the best time to trim the hedge, in the fall after it had finished its growth spurt for the year. Next year's new spring growth should fill in some of the areas where it looks thin.

I spent a couple hours working at it, clipping a branch at a time. So can you see the difference between the before and after pictures?

It appears that I now have an ongoing bonsai project. I figure it will take a few years to get it more in line with my expectations of what it should look like.

On a final note, as we were walking the kids from house to house in their costumes to collect candy, I noticed a juniper bush in front of my neighbor's house.

I really like the way that looks.

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