Answers to your spring pruning and trimming questions | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

The big questions this week are about when to cut, what to cut and how to cut.

It’s mid-April and spring is busting out all over.

The big questions this week are about when to cut, what to cut and how to cut. Here are the answers about spring pruning:

Q. I have a giant rhododendron that is blocking the view from my window. It is in full bloom and I like it when it is in flower but it is blocking light most of the year. Can I prune it to just a few feet tall and will it still bloom? N.S., Tacoma

A. Perhaps you need to move it or lose it. Rhododendrons will survive a severe pruning but it often takes 2 to 3 years before they flower again and by that time they may have grown just as tall as they were before the hatchet job.

Rhododendrons with large leaves are programmed by nature to grow tall – like the size of small trees tall. The good news is that rhodies, azaleas and camellias have compact root systems and can be moved or transplanted to a larger space. The best time to prune any rhodo or azaleas is immediately after the plant is done flowering.

The best time to move or transplant a very large shrub is when it is dormant in early spring.

Q. How tall can I let the grass grow before I must mow? I am going for a meadow look but my neighbors are hinting that I need to mow the lawn. I live in the city with a small front yard but I would like to encourage wild flowers. Anon, email

A. Your field goals may be different than your neighbors, but your field of dreams can become the neighborhood nightmare if you ignore the lawn mower.

Front yards in urban neighborhoods and other small spaces are not places to go natural with the lawn as you will be growing more weeds than wild flowers. For a healthy lawn you need to mow when the grass blades are three inches tall, cutting off the top one-third of the grass.

A better option for a no-mow front yard is to replace the turf with raised beds for edibles or groundcovers, or add pathways set between mounded planting beds of trees, shrubs and groundcovers.

Q. I have some shrubs, some vines and a climbing rose that all need pruning because I can hardly walk down my garden pathways anymore. What is the best time to prune? I hate cutting off branches with new leaf growth! K.L., Kent

A. The best time to prune any plant is when the shears are sharp. This means do not delay pruning overgrown plants by using the excuse that it is the wrong time of year.

Make your cuts close to a joint or where a branch joins up with a trunk, remove crossing or inward facing growth to thin out the center of plants and always remove anything dead, diseased or damaged.

Now stop being so hesitant and thoughtful and just get snippy with your overgrown plants. People before plants – if a branch is blocking a pathway – off with it’s head.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from WSU, is the author of a dozen garden books and the host of Dig In Seattle, a TV show about gardening and cooking. She can be reached at www.binettigarden.com


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Life

Founder and co-owner of Red Tea Room Donna Wong puts the finishing touch on their most popular dessert— Lemon Meringue Glacée. Photo by Haley Ausbun.
Renton catering company pivots during pandemic

The Red Tea Room Catering’s move to takeout helped keep the company going— and get closer to neighbors

Courtesy of Lindbergh High School.
Congrats to the Class of 2020— virtual ceremony June 15

Students were also celebrated using walk-up ceremonies at Renton High School, Lindbergh High School, Hazen High School and Talley Sr. High School

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                A woman checks out jars of honey and jam at the Renton Farmers Market in 2018. This year social distancing guidelines are changing the look of the market.
Renton Farmers Market is back June 9

The 19th season of the market will look a little different due to social distancing guidelines

Relay for Life of South King County moves online

American Cancer Society donations to be taken during May 30 virtual gathering

Auburn Symphony Orchestra announces 2020-21 season

Begins with Summer Series scheduled to start June 21

Medic One Foundation’s Gratitude Meals offer support to first responders, local businesses

The initiative provides hearty lunches to first responders staffing the COVID-19 testing sites as they work to test their colleagues.

‘Don’t assume it can’t happen to you’

Federal Way resident Evelyn Allcorn shares story of her husband’s battle with COVID-19 after he tested positive on March 28.

Auburn dance studio finds creative solutions to keep going during COVID-19

Pacific Ballroom Dance moves to online classes; group returned home early from national competition

Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                Boon Boona Coffee in downtown Renton is well-known for its large cafe space, but owner Efrem Fesaha has found a creative way to keep people to to-go orders only, putting a table right at the door. The order from the Governor hasn’t been easy for small businesses in Renton, and many are just taking it day to day and hoping for financial relief from local and regional leaders.
Renton communities reach out during shut-in

Local organizations, volunteers and businesses try to make the best of quarantine

Renton and AARP team up for seniors

New fitness park to funded and will open late in the summer

Schindler’s legacy bounces along at Baden

CEO of Baden Sports died unexpectedly in February