How to to prune — or not
If you are itching to get into the garden on a mild winter's day, you might want to grab a good pair of hand pruners and sharp loppers and go in search of a shrub to prune.
This is an adventure fraught with peril for the shrubs, but if you have a reasonable sense of what to do, you can improve the look, health and vigor of these garden stalwarts and control them.
How and when to prune a shrub depends on what it is. The golden rule: Better to do no pruning than to butcher the wrong shrub.
• Conservative pruning has health benefits for spring-blooming trees like dogwoods and redbuds, even if some of the April show will be lost.
• Crape myrtles can be pruned in the winter. Don't reduce them to stubs.
• Loppers offer a safe way into roses. Finish with pruners.
• Beautyberry bushes can be massive. Cut them back hard.
• Butterfly bushes also respond to a vigorous chop in winter.
Not to prune:
• Azaleas, pieris and viburnums set flower buds in summer. Pruning at this time would compromise their spring display.
• Leave hydrangeas alone except for light grooming in late April.
• Weeping Japanese maples require care and precision.
• Wait until after the forsythia blooms in mid-April, then prune old bushes hard.