Rhododendron ‘Anna Rose Whitney’ in full bloom.

Rhododendron ‘Anna Rose Whitney’ in full bloom.

Duchess of Dirt: June prune comes early this year

Leslie Cox

Special to The Record

Typically, June is one time we need to attend to some pruning chores in the garden but this year June is almost a tad late. John has already pruned out the new shoots which had sprouted up on the pear tree… back in early May. Things are happening earlier in the garden this year.

I have been hearing from many about their garlic – having to cut off the scapes (the curly-q flower stalk) already. Mine were harvested a whole month ahead of last year’s date. Rather surprising as last year was a warm one too.

Overall, April 2016 averaged three degrees Celsius warmer than April 2015. No wonder the plants are happy this year.

So, back to the pear tree and the “June prune.” This tree always sends up lots of new branch shoots in mid-spring, after its annual winter prune, and they should be removed. This will allow for the tree to funnel its energy into fruit development.

The pear tree will still drop some of its fruits at this time of year – the tree’s way of saying, “OK, I am not getting enough water to support this much fruit.” And it was certainly loaded, thanks to the warm April, which brought out lots of bees for pollinating. But taking off the new shoots will help the growth for the remaining pears.

June is also the time to prune those shrubs which have just finished flowering. Like my Mexican mock orange, Choisya x dewitteana ‘Aztec Pearl.’ I keep mine in a rounded form and the easiest way to handle pruning to this shape is to take your hedging shears, turn them upside down, and start cutting. Once you have taken your shrub back to where it should be (never cut off more than a third of its overall size), you can tidy up the pruning job with your secateurs, snipping to an outside-facing leaf node. When you have a lot of pruning to do, using the hedging shears saves some time.

OK, who has dead-headed their rhodos? If you haven’t, get on it. Those spent flowers really should come off. But it can be a really sticky job, I know. So here’s a hint: use disposable gloves and smear some Vaseline on the fingertips. Works like a charm.

 

 

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.