What's your gardening style? Are you a "globe" person or a "naturalized" person?
First up is the all-important question of what your overall "look and feel" goal is for the garden.
Are you a neatly trimmed, everything-in-a-crisp-shape type, or does your garden look more natural? Either type is fine, but they are different. Our neighbourhood is very much the ‘neatly trimmed’ street with many houses bedecked with globes and spheres of every known plant type. Most landscapes here use a lot of globe cedars, spiraeas and other roundy-shaped plants and the neighbours are out in force helping all stay perfectly round. There are a few more naturalized landscapes – with the plants left to grow in a more ‘wild’ shape – but those are the exception on our street.
If you are ‘globe person’, you can probably stop reading now. You tend to trim the flowering shrubs to the shape you want, and you are not going to care about any re-flowering possibilities. Go back outside with your trimmers and trim away! Globe people trim year-round – whenever they see a branch out the place. Your globes may never flower and you just do not care…
So for the rest of us – we need to think about the plants.
What summer pruning am I doing to help my shrubs,
and what pruning should I do or NOT do to encourage re-flowering.
In the good old days of just a few years ago, most of our summer-flowering shrubs would bloom once a year. And it was easy, as with most of them it was a “prune after blooming” instruction. For our house, the Weigela in the side garden needs a big haircut now as it is an old variety and it is ‘done’ blooming for the year and looking a bit ratty - so a haircut will help. BUT, that cool nifty Sonic Bloom that we planted in the front beds will keep on flowering as long as I do NOT give it a hard pruning after the first flowers – so now what – the old rule of thumb needs an update!
New Rule of Thumb – “never throw out the plant tag”
I know that sounds really dumb, but bear with me. For many of the newer flowering shrubs – they are special as they flower more than once a year. Hydrangea, Lilac, Weigela are just a few examples of these great new plants. While the garden care is virtually identical to their older cousins who bloom once a season – it is in this ‘pruning’ area that you need to be careful. A ‘hard’ pruning after the first flush of flowers could be BAD. Most of these re-bloomers ask for deadheading until after the last flush of flowers is finished in the fall. Some do suggest that deadheading (removing) the spent flowers is good – but pulling off the dead flowers is not cutting the wood of the stems.
Which circles us back to the plant tag. You need to remember what the name and type of your shrubs are (which is on the tag) if you want to prune properly. Armed with the plant name you can go to the breeders website to get detailed pruning instructions. Sorry – we know that is one more thing to do and we all have loads on our lists already. But if your goal is a few more flowers on the shrubs each summer, then trimming each plant based on the specific cultivar name is a good place to start.