TIGER TOMMY’S PRUNING techniques is transforming Nervous Nellie into Cautious connie — some of the time.

No need to be a ‘Nervous Nellie’ when it comes to pruning

When it comes to pruning, I am the ultimate Nervous Nellie. Always too afraid to take off too much...

When it comes to pruning, I am the ultimate Nervous Nellie. Always too afraid to take off too much.

But John’s Tiger Tommy approach to pruning is slowly taking the edge off my fear. Where once I would cover my eyes when he came out of the shed with hedge trimmers in hand, I can now watch with only a modicum of trepidation.

It has still taken me a number of years to get to this level. Probably because of my absolute terror, (and I mean that!), barely three weeks before our eldest daughter’s wedding in the garden, when John hazed the beautiful, sea-of-pink-flowering Phuopsis stylosa (Caucasian crosswort) right to the ground.

Well, yes…it was starting to look a little tired and it likely would have looked pretty spent by The Big Day…but I had been hooked on having lots of colour in the garden for the event.

Turned out to be a good call on John’s part as the plant did rejuvenate itself in time but only to the point where it had fresh buds. No flowers. I had to concede even fresh green was definitely better than spent and dying.

So now I have graduated to a Cautious Connie, wielding my very own pruners with some determination. Taking some of the pressure off of John as he has oodles to prune in his garden without having to bail me out all the time.

Pruning is pretty much what is needing to be done in our garden right now. Lots of cutting back and pruning to shape.

Fruit trees and grape vines to be brought into some semblance of control for bearing the most produce. Roses to be curtailed so they remain in their place. Hedges to be trimmed so they still look like hedges. You know the drill.

But always I run into what I call the “questionables” and up steps Nervous Nellie to the forefront again.

Take the hellebores, for instance.

I know the leaves need to be cut back but when and how much? One reference says they should be all removed before the new buds appear. Another tome recommends pruning out the older foliage sometime between December and February. Who is right?

This Nervous Nellie theorizes the plant needs its chlorophyll for photosynthesizing food for bud development. So, right or wrong, it is my practice to just cut back the old, tattered leaves and leave the rest.

Seems to work.

My method does not impact on the floral display since most hellebore species sprout their flowering stems and new leaves from the centre while the older leaves have a tendency to lay down slightly around the perimeter.

BTW, you should keep an eye on your hellebore leaves throughout the season. Clean up any decaying or diseased ones as the plants are susceptible to hellebore leaf spot…a fungus disease like black spot.

Moving over from the hellebores are my two bishop’s hat plants…Epimedium x rubrum and E. x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’. Now for this stellar genus I have become a decidedly Assured Annie pruner.

As lovely as the evergreen foliage is on these guys, it must be hacked completely back if you are to see the delicate flowers at all. And you should do it NOW! I already have new buds forming on my ‘Sulphureum’ and E. x rubrum is not far behind. Wait too long to cut the foliage back and you likely will tag the flower stems too.

But now I am back to Cautious Connie…what to do about the Hepatica nobilis (liverwort) finery? Some say to leave it and some say to whack it. Who do you believe?!

I think I will put my faith in Tiger Tommy. He has yet to steer me wrong…as intimidating as his pruning style is…and he says to whack hepaticas back just if they are looking ratty. Rattiness takes away from the beautiful blue of the flowers.

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

Just Posted

New Cumberland fire engine long overdue, says fire chief

The prospect of a new fire hall delayed the order as existing engine bays were too small

BC Hydro increasing flow in Puntledge River

BC Hydro is warning the public to stay away from the Puntledge… Continue reading

Equipment donation helps North Island College’s trades expansion

Allan and Donna Edie recently provide more than $273,000 in equipment to college

Comox Valley Regional District announces key water treatment project land acquisition

District buys land from Courtenay and District Fish & Game Protective Association

Winds of up to 90 km/hr predicted to hit Vancouver Island

Environment Canada is warning that loose objects may cause damage

VIDEO: Close encounter with a whale near Canada-U.S border

Ron Gillies had his camera ready when a whale appeared Dec. 7

B.C. Lions hire DeVone Claybrooks as head coach

Former Stampeders DC succeeds CFL legend Wally Buono

France shooting: 2 dead, several wounded in Strasbourg

A world-famous Christmas market was put on lock down on Tuesday

Canadian warship witnesses possible violations of North Korea sanctions

Crew members on HMCS Calgary took photos and collected other information

Christine Sinclair named Canadian Women’s player of the year again

This is the 14th time Sinclair has been named player of the year

Double rainbow shines through stormy Comox Valley day

Following a rainy, windy start to the day, Shannon Colthorpe caught a… Continue reading

B.C. man wants trapping laws changed after dog killed

Louis Seguin’s 10-month-old Australian shepherd died in a body-gripping trap last month

Nearly 8,000 homeless in B.C., first province-wide count reveals

Twenty-four seperate counts in B.C. cities found there are thousands of homeless in all corners of province

Most Read