While visiting my aging mother, my sister and I began to do some gardening which she is no longer able to do. My sister dumped out her garden tool bag and out fell a security vest in neon green. When I asked why that was in with her garden tools, she said she uses it when she goes out with the “citizen pruners” in her town.
She has taken a course with the cooperative extension service in her state to prune trees and shrubs using “correct technique, common sense, and a feel for aesthetics.” After taking the course and getting a five year license, members go out as a team with an extension leader and prune overgrown public areas. They prune bicycle paths and parks, clear brush and limbs from blocking highway signs and generally keep the town looking good. Any time a limb is damaged or there is a danger to pedestrians, the citizen pruners are called on. If you participate in the pruning program, the $100 fee is paid for you.
We don’t have ‘citizen pruners’ in Virginia but cooperative extension offers many garden related courses. Many of us have taken the Master Gardener course and there are a lot more classes offered under this banner. The “Tree SMARTS” program covers many issues home owners may have concerning health and care of yard trees. The “sustainable landscape” class also teaches homeowners to understand tree needs and landscape maintenance. For all courses available see the extension website at www.ext.vt.edu.
From bee keeping to garden design to tools and techniques, Virginia extension programs are available throughout the year. To keep your new knowledge handy, many guides are also offered. Of particular use for me are the timetable guides for pruning deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. Though one of the best reasons to prune is because a branch or shrub is blocking a view or has overgrown its space, knowing when to prune will help the plant repair and grow better in the future.
So when my mother wanted the boxwood cut below the windows, we got out our clippers and went to work. July is the latest time to cut boxwoods so they don’t have new growth when cold weather comes. Because of boxwood blight it is recommended not to prune in early spring as was once taught but rather to wait until May or June when temperatures are steadier and less likely to have severe fluctuations. We have already cut spring flowering shrubs after they bloomed and will wait to cut summer flowering shrubs until later in winter. If it’s broken and dangling or is hitting you in the head, cut it now.