March E-News from Viette's                                  Volume 12: No. 3

Lori Jones, Editor                                                                                                March/2016

In spring the Viette gardens are filled with colorful flowers!


Spring will be here before you know it!

Get Ready to Garden!  


The days will be getting warmer,  

the bulbs will be popping, and the forsythia will soon be blooming!


Certain garden chores,  

such as some types of pruning,  

need to be completed during a  

relatively narrow window of time  

in the early spring!

Quick Links

Plant of the Month 

Just A Reminder!
Don't Forget!!  
Rejuvenation Pruning
If you have overgrown shrubs like holly, boxwood, lilac, rhododendron, azalea, or yews, NOW (while they are still dormant) is the time to prune them back HARD. Click for some video tips.
Bixwood pruned hard for rejuvenation
Boxwood pruned hard for rejuvenation

Evergreen Perennials 
Trim back the the winter ravaged foliage of your evergreen perennials such as Helleborus, Epimedium, and Liriope before the new growth begins. Once they begin to grow in the spring, it is difficult and time consuming to trim the old foliage. Click for some video tips.
Cut Liriope back before the new growth begins in spring.
Cut Liriope back before the new growth begins in spring.
Did You Know?
Aster n.a. 'Alma Potschke' has vivid pink blooms.
Divide asters in the spring
 Dividing Plants  
in Spring
Early spring is a good time to divide many perennials. February or March before they break dormancy is the best time to divide most fall blooming perennials like asters, Helianthus, Chrysanthemums, Ceratostigma (Plumbago), Japanese anemones, dahlias, and ornamental grasses. Other plants that do better when divided in the spring but after they finish blooming are Dicentra (Bleeding heart) and Primula (Primrose).

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Gardening Questions?
Andre  answers a listener's question during a broadcast of 'In the Garden'

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"In the Garden  
with Andre Viette"
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Viette Discussion Board
Weekend Gardening Tip

Pruning Needled Evergreen Trees & Shrubs  


Pruning conifers or needled evergreens incorrectly can be disastrous to the appearance your trees!  


Two groups of needled evergreens

In order to understand how these evergreens should be pruned, it is important to understand how and where they produce new growth. Needled evergreens fall into two basic groups which are determined by their branching pattern; whorl-branched and non-whorled or random branching. 


Whorl-branched conifers

Spruce tree
A young spruce tree

branch only once a year when new growth occurs in the spring. This results in a whorled growth of branches at the growing tip. In this group, new growth comes from buds at the tips of the branches, buds along the new growth, and from buds at the base of the new growth. Evergreens that fall into this group should not be cut back beyond where there is green growth (or beyond the last whorl) because there are no latent or dormant buds in the bare old wood. If pruned back beyond this point, there will almost certainly be no regrowth on the branch and it will remain a bare stick!   


Whorl-branched conifers include:

  • Abies (Fir)
  • Cedrus (Cedar)
  • Cryptomeria
  • Larix (Larch)
  • Picea (Spruce)
  • Pinus (Pine)
Spruce buds

Spruce fall into the whorl-branched group.  

Buds are found on the new growth.

Random branching conifers produce new growth from buds at the tips of the branches and also from buds that are randomly located along the stems. These evergreens have dormant buds and foliage further back on the stem than the whorled branched species. The result is that this group can be cut back harder and still break into new growth. Still, to be safe, you should not cut back beyond where there is green growth. 


Non-whorled or random branching conifers include:

  • Chamaecyparus (False cypress)
  • Cupressus (Cypress)
  • Cupressocyparis leylandii (Leyland Cypress)
  • Tsuga (Hemlock)  
  • Juniperus (Juniper)
  • Taxus (Yew) *  
  • Thuja (Arborvitae)   

* Yews are an exception to the group because they have dormant buds in the bare wood. These shrubs can be cut back hard similar to the way you can prune boxwood or hollies.  

Juniper fall into the random branching group.

Juniper fall into the random branching group. Buds are found randomly along branches and at the tips.

How to prune


Whorl-branched conifers

These evergreens have a naturally beautiful shape and normally, they require little pruning. Care should be taken when a species or cultivar is chosen to select one that will not outgrow the space you plant it in.   

"Candles" on Mugo Pine in April

"Candles" on Mugo Pine in April


Pruning to limit size - Growth can be controlled by pruning if you start when the plant is young. If you wait until the tree has outgrown its space, it will be too late to shorten the growth and have the plant look natural.


Pruning candles -  

The new growing tips on whorl-branched evergreens are called candles. You can control the growth of your tree by pruning the candles.

  • If you want to slow the growth a little but still want it to get bigger, remove about 1/2 to 1/3 of the candle when it has elongated to 2"-4" usually in mid to late spring or early summer.
  • If you want the tree to remain the same size, remove the entire candle when it gets to be about an inch long.

Other selective pruning should be done in early spring so that the cut ends will heal quicker.

  • Dormant buds behind the cuts will begin to grow and will hide the cut ends.  
  • If pruning is done too late, these buds will remain dormant and no new growth will occur to hide the cut ends.  
  • NEVER cut back into bare stems! Always cut back to a side branch or a dormant bud so you will get regrowth. 

Random Branching Conifers

These evergreens can tolerate more pruning than the whorl-branched group because they have more dormant buds along the stem. Pruning cuts can be made almost anywhere along the stem except into bare wood.  

  • Prune to maintain shape - This is best done in early spring so the new growth covers the cut ends. Selective hand pruning rather than shearing creates a more natural shape.
  • Prune to remove wayward branches in early spring. Cut back to a side branch.
  • Prune to maintain size - Shear the new growth in summer once the tree or shrub has stopped growing. For prostrate or open growing plants, it is often better to selectively prune individual branches rather than shearing the whole plant.  

Other pruning notes:

  • For both of these types of conifers, dead, diseased, or damaged branches should be removed as soon as they are noticed regardless of the time of the year. When removing diseased portions, be sure to disinfect shears with a 10% bleach solution between cuts. 
  • To avoid winter damage, do not prune evergreens in late summer or early fall. The tender new growth that forms will not have time to harden off before cold weather sets in and will freeze and turn brown during the winter.
More Spring Pruning Tips ...
Pruning Roses
Hybrid Tea Rose
Hybrid Tea Rose
Hybrid tea roses, floribunda roses, and grandiflora roses
Yearly pruning of hybrid tea roses will keep them blooming at their best. The main pruning should take place in the spring after the threat of cold weather.
  • In the spring, when the Forsythia are in full bloom, it is time to prune your hybrid tea roses, floribunda roses, and grandiflora roses.
  • Select about 5-6 of the strongest, healthiest, and greenest canes to keep and thin out the remainder of the stems. Cut your strong canes back to 6" - 12" from the ground.
  • Cut any winter-damaged stems back to healthy green wood.
  • When you are finished, the remaining 5-6 canes should be well spaced and the center of the rose should be fairly open.
Double Knock Out rose
Double Knock Out
Knock Out roses can be pruned in the spring when the Forsythia are in full bloom. These roses are very resilient and durable, so they are relatively easy to care for. There are basically three different pruning methods that you can use on these beautiful long-blooming roses.
  1. The first method is to not prune them at all. If you don't prune them, knock out roses (depending on the cultivar) will grow up to 5' tall and about 4'-5' wide. If you follow this option, it might be a good idea to thin them a little every few years to keep them looking nice and blooming well.
  2. The second method is to cut them back hard and thin out some of the oldest wood every few years in the spring when the forsythia are blooming. They can be pruned back to 18", 24", 26", or even 48" from the ground.
  3. The third method is to cut them back every year in the spring after the threat of cold weather. You can cut them back hard as above or you can just cut them back enough to shape them they way you want them to look. Thin them out, too, if necessary to improve their appearance and blooming.
Pruning Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtles generally require little pruning if you choose the right variety and right size. They are slow to leaf out in the spring but once they are breaking dormancy, you can easily see if there is winter damage that needs to be pruned out. This is a great time to prune, thin, and shape up these beautiful trees. First prune out the dead wood and then prune further if needed.
There are two ways to prune crape myrtle:
  1. Crape myrtle pruned to tree form
    Pruned to tree form
    Pruning for tree form
    The taller crape myrtle hybrids can usually be trained into tree form by completely removing all but 1-6 of the main stems. As it grows each year, prune out any lower branches that may develop along the main trunks. Because crape myrtle blooms on new wood (current season's growth), even the tree forms bloom more prolifically if they are pruned or thinned in the late spring. Prune out crossing branches and those that are growing into the center of the canopy. If necessary, remove dried flower clusters from the previous season.
  2. Multi-stemmed shrub form
    Crape myrtle growing as a shrub
    Pruned as a shrub
    In the colder areas of Zone 6, crape myrtles may experience some severe die back over the winter. In these colder areas, you may need to treat your crape myrtle as a shrub rather than as a tree.  Once they break dormancy in late spring, prune these shrub forms back to about 12" - 18" or sometimes even lower depending on where there is live wood. Your crape myrtle will then flush out in beautiful new, fresh growth that will bloom well and remain compact
  3. Check out these video tips on pruning crape myrtle.
Pruning Spring Blooming Shrubs
Bumble bee visits a spring azalea flower
Azalea should be pruned
after flowering in spring
, trees and shrubs that flower in the spring form their flower buds in the previous season, usually in the late summer or early fall. These plants flower on "old wood" or growth that was produced the summer before. Because the flower buds are already set on the branches, you should avoid pruning them in the fall, winter, or spring. Shrubs like rhododendron, azalea, quince, lilac, forsythia, viburnum, some hydrangea, and trees like dogwood, redbud, and crabapple fall into this category.
best time to prune these spring bloomers is right after they finish blooming. Pruning at this time can range from simple deadheading of spent blooms to heading back branches and thinning to reshape or reduce the size of the plant. Click for tips on pruning spring blooming shrubs.
Pruning Lavender Plants
Lavender If left unpruned, lavender plants eventually become floppy and sparse. Annual pruning keeps them neater and more compact. This can be accomplished by shearing or by pruning individual stems.
  • Prune to remove the old flower stems, removing at least one inch of the leafy growth below the spent flowers.
  • In areas with colder winters like we have in the Shenandoah Valley, do this pruning in the early spring.
  • In areas with milder winters, they can be pruned right after they finish flowering.
Old, neglected, overgrown lavender plants cannot usually be rejuvenated by more severe pruning; they should be replaced with young vigorous plants. This may be the best course of action if they have been in the ground for many years. You can try pruning them in the spring to see how they respond. If they don't flush out with nice new growth, consider replacing them.

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Travel with Andre and Claire Viette in 2016!  
Budapest on the banks of the Danube
Budapest on the banks of the Danube
The Imperial Gardens  
and Treasures Tour
September 18 - October 1, 2016

Featuring the Imperial worlds of the
German and Austro-Hungarian Empires
Visit Hungary, Austria,
the Czech Republic, and Germany

Tour highlights include:
Budapest - Enjoy a guided tour of this beautiful city on the Danube; visit a botanical garden; spend a day in the Puszta - land of the Hungarian cowboys and be treated to an equestrian show and gypsy music   
Vienna - From Budapest, we will travel up the Danube by hydrofoil boat to Vienna where you will see the famous Lipizzaner Stallions, the Schönbrunn Gardens, and enjoy a concert of Strauss and Mozart at the  Schönbrunn Palace  
Berlin's River Spree
Cruising on Berlin's River Spree
Prague - We then travel north to Prague by way of the scenic Wachau Valley. Tour Prague, its famous castle, the Charles Bridge, and magnificent gardens. End the day with a three-hour cruise on the Vltava River! 
Berlin - On the way to Berlin, we will stop at the city of Dresden. In Berlin, relax on a cruise on the River Spree, enjoy a candlelight dinner and concert at the Charlottenburg palace, and take a walking tour of Berlin. You can even opt to join Andre and Claire on a visit to the largest private botanical garden in Europe.
Andre will give a series of gardening presentations throughout the trip.

Space is limited to 42 persons so this trip will fill up fast!


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