The Joy of Landscaping

A Gardening Blog

The Hiatus is Over

It's been awhile since my last post, but we've spent the last nine months in an arduous two step move process. Now that things are more under control, it's time to get back on the horse, or more appropriately, back typing on the keyboard!

Actually, moving has given me an idea for a series of posts. We moved from a northeast coastal location (zone 6b) to a more rural, hilly inland mid-Atlantic site (zone 7). Our old house was on 1/8 of an acre; our new is on 3 acres of mostly grass. So future posts may include information, ideas, tips, and problems encountered as I tackle my new landscape.

While we've spent most of the last few months on interior issues, I have started some work outside. Unfortunately, the first tasks have had to be maintenance oriented - never fun, but necessary. It's amazing how one day of weeding can drastically improve your landscape! Another day of trimming and pruning overgrown shrubs and trees also helps. But make sure you do it correctly, and at the right time for the particular plant. Here's one source that can give you some guidance.

I was surprised to find 2 healthy lilacs in our new yard. One of my favorite plants, lilacs were prolific and did very well where we used to live (see photo at left), but I hadn't seen them during our house hunting excursions down here. Zone 7 is their upper range for viability and shows that when you are in the outer/inner hardiness zones for a plant, they may or may not work depending on the particular microclimate where they are placed. One of the lilacs appears to be a non hybrid syringa vulgaris, which can grow quite large if left unchecked. Well, this one has been left to grow, and was up against a window off our kitchen and stretching towards the roof. The other lilac, out further in the bed, appears to be a dwarf and doesn't need any work.

Tip: Pruning Lilacs (non dwarf varieties)

When: right after it's finished flowering, typically late spring when the flowers are brown (dead branches can be snipped off anytime), Do not prune after June or you will kill the flower buds for the next season.

How: Use pruners to cut off dead branches and those without leaves. Cut off the small suckers that emerge around the base. Trim off any wayward branches. Lilacs need to be thinned periodically to keep flowering at lower levels, provide better air circulation, and if you want to keep the height down. Do NOT shear off the tops of branches. Instead, go "inside" the shrub and, using a hacksaw, cut off a branch that is multiple inches thick as close to the ground as possible. Usually these older branches are the tallest and close to the center. You can cut a few out, but do not prune more than one-third of a plant each year. If the plant is very overgrown, this will be a multi-year pruning process.

Stay tuned for more in the coming months.