Pruning Summer Flowering Shrubs: Old-Fashioned Hydrangeas

We as gardeners face many dilemmas, some more difficult than others. For many gardeners, pruning falls under the heading of garden dilemma. Every year, I get questions regarding how and when to prune various things in our North State gardens. Recently I’ve had questions regarding hydrangeas and shrub-type salvias. Both of these I would describe as summer and late summer bloomers, but in the milder portions of our region these beauties often keep blooming all the way through December and beyond. Photo: A combination planting of old-fashioned mop-head and oak-leaf hydrangea in summer bloom.

So when ARE you supposed to prune? A better question to ask yourself, is why do you prune? and based on that answer, decide when and how to prune. Photo:A mop-head hydrangea in winter, illustrating the dilemma as it bears new flower buds, dead heads and a recent bloom.

In general we prune a plant for health, for beauty or for production. If any of your plants need attention for these three reasons, then get your pruning tools out, make sure they are clean and sharp, and move to the next step. Photo: A lovely lace-cap hydrangea which has been kept to a nice height and shape against a stone wall.

No matter when or what you are pruning, your first cuts should completely remove dead or diseased material. If you think your plant has disease, do not compost your trimmings, but throw them away in the trash and sanitize your tools between cuts and especially between plants. Photo I recently visited a home garden with a good number of large old hydrangeas in need a pruning for both removing dead heads and for restoring some shape. We removed 1/3 of the oldest wood stems all the way to their bases. Another 1/3 of the oldest wood will be removed next fall and winter. This restorative pruning will encourage vigorous young shoots to come up from the base of the shrub and take over blooming from the older wood.

Next you will want to consider the beauty and shape of your plant as well as its production. For summer blooming shrubs, you will want to know if your plant blooms on new or old wood. New wood is stem and bud growth that is produced new each spring; old wood is that which began formation last season or before. Photo: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haye’s Starburst’.

Now let’s focus on hydrangeas. Hydrangeas do not NEED to be pruned every year in order to bloom, but they do look tidier and will produce more vigorous growth with some regular pruning.

Almost universally, the old fashioned mop-head, lace-cap and oak-leaf hydrangeas all bloom on old wood – which means that the stems that most recently produced flowers are safe to prune back. So from late fall through early winter, your next easiest pruning cuts will be pruning dead flower heads. Photo:A lovely red-stemmed lace-cap.

Go to your shrub, look at the stems closely. You will see that on stems with a dried flower head at the top, beneath this there are sets of swelling buds or shoots directly opposite one another all the way down the stem. The general rule of thumb is to prune to the second or third fattest set of buds beneath the spent flower head on all three of these kinds of hydrangeas. On these old fashioned hydrangea, do not prune those stems which have a nice fat bud right at their tip these are the buds that will bear your lovely summer blossoms. Photo: An oak-leaf hydrangea with its dramatic panicle of flowers and its burgundy foliage.

Get started with these steps and you will be well on your way to tackling the pruning of your hydrangea for this season!

January and February in the North State is pruning season – and nurseries, garden clubs and master gardeners all offer myriad pruning workshops during these months. For information on classes being offered, visit the On-Line calendar of regional gardening events at Jewellgarden.com. Here are a few coming pruning workshops being offered in our area in the coming weeks: Photo: A hydrangea ‘flower’ is actually a panicle, or loose cluster, of many flowers all together.

January 21 – Fairoaks: Fairoaks Horticultural Center Workshop Winter Fruit Tree Maintenance 9 am – noon. Learn about winter fruit tree maintenance with emphasis on pruning concepts and using the least toxic methods to counter fruit tree insect pests and diseases. Watch how to spur prune and cane prune grape vines. Learn the correct procedures for pruning blueberries. For more info: http://ucanr.org/sites/sacmg/Fair_Oaks_Horticulture_Center/Workshop_Schedule/

January 21 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens: Fruit Tree Pruning Workshops 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. January is the month for Pruning Fruit Trees. Learn to properly prune and care for your trees;Proper pruning is essential for improving your trees health, appearance and fruit development. Class size is limited, please call or email (inform@wyntourgardens.com) to reserve your seat. All participants will receive an informative handout and a 10% Coupon. Bare root trees will be available for purchase. For more info: inform@wyntourgardens.com, 365-2256. 8026 Airport Road Redding.

January 28 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens: Fruit Tree Pruning Workshops 10 a.m. January is the month for Pruning Fruit Trees. Learn to properly prune and care for your trees;Proper pruning is essential for improving your trees health, appearance and fruit development. Class size is limited, please call or email (inform@wyntourgardens.com) to reserve your seat. All participants will receive an informative handout and a 10% Coupon. Bare root trees will be available for purchase. For more info: inform@wyntourgardens.com, 365-2256. 8026 Airport Road Redding.

January 28 – Orland: UC Master Gardeners Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop 10 – noon Glenn County Farm Bureau. 831 5th St., Orland, CA 95963. Cost: $5.00 per person. Advanced registration preferred: Mail a check, made payable to UC Regents to: Pruning Workshop UCCE-Glenn County P.O. Box 697 Orland, CA 95963-0697 Or register online at: http://ucanr.org/u.cfm?ids=2437. Participants will learn planting techniques for new trees, how to train young trees and how to prune mature trees for fruit production. Sponsored by the UC Master Gardeners of Glenn County and the Glenn County Farm Bureau. For more info: http://ucanr.org/u.cfm?ids=2437

January 28 – Orland: UC Master Gardeners Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop 10 – noon Glenn County Farm Bureau. 831 5th St., Orland, CA 95963. Cost: $5.00 per person. Advanced registration preferred: Mail a check, made payable to UC Regents to: Pruning Workshop UCCE-Glenn County P.O. Box 697 Orland, CA 95963-0697 Or register online at: http://ucanr.org/u.cfm?ids=2437. Participants will learn planting techniques for new trees, how to train young trees and how to prune mature trees for fruit production. Sponsored by the UC Master Gardeners of Glenn County and the Glenn County Farm Bureau. For more info: http://ucanr.org/u.cfm?ids=2437

Jan 28 & Feb 4 – Durham: Hodge’s Nursery – 10am, we’ll have Clinics on “How To Grow Your Own Fruit Trees & Grapes. Come out & spend the morning with us & learn the most effective & easiest ways to grow & maintain your own fruit trees & grapevines. In our demonstration orchard & vineyard at Hodge’s, you’ll be able to see how easy it is to grow your own food, when you keep the trees & grapevines small & manageable. Come with your questions & ideas. We always have a lively group of people that love to garden. Free
9681 Midway, Durham, CA 95938 · Get Directions 530-894-6598. Website http://www.hodgesnursery.com Opens at 8:30 am.Hours Mon – Sat: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm

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To submit plant/gardening related events/classes to the Jewellgarden.com on-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events, send the pertinent information to me at: Jennifer@jewellgarden.com

Did you know I send out a weekly email with information about upcoming topics and gardening related events in the North State region? If you would like to be added to the mailing list, send an email to Jennifer@jewellgarden.com.

In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.

Jennifer Jewell
In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.
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2 Responses

  1. Avatar rmv says:

    Very nice Jennifer. 🙂

    Thank you for caring for our NORTH STATE as i do!

    GOD BLESS AMERICA (and her children)! 🙂

  1. January 21, 2012

    […] Pruning Summer Flowering Shrubs: Old-Fashioned Hydrangeas January 21, 2012Posted by admin Pruning Summer Flowering Shrubs: Old-Fashioned Hydrangeas So from late fall through early winter, your next easiest pruning cuts will be pruning dead flower heads. Photo:A lovely red-stemmed lace-cap. Go to your shrub, look at the stems closely. You will see that on stems with a dried flower head at the top, … Read more on A News Cafe […]