We love to learn by doing
If you like hands-on, too, come watch us and try your hand at
techniques from "In our gardens" at one of our free Garden by Janet & Steven sessions.
These events are chances to shear, best your fear, even just walk and talk. You can join us whenever
our calendar and yours align.
Shear then pat and
That's the kind of thing people do when they come to a pruning
session of Garden By Janet & Steven. They let their
hands learn. For instance, those in the photo at right were
learning to clip a birdsnest spruce to
keep it small. This included patting the dwarf spruce after its
initial reduction, feeling for the most thickly-branched tips, then
cutting out those stubs.
That thinned the surface, letting light in to promote
more leaves (needles) well into the shrub's center.
If it is repeatedly sheared at about the same level, a plant
becomes little more than a shell of crowded branch tips -- twigs
that are relatively weak because of their high wood-to-leaf ratio.
That dense layer of twigs also blocks light to the plant's center,
killing foliage that could keep the plant more dense and
Right: When sheared, the plant branches right there. If
these yew tips are sheared again, the space now occupied by three
or four twigs will be crammed with eight or more, all vying for the
same light space.
So we pat the surface after we shear to find the branches that
have been shorn the most times. We feel for those that have become
most branched/least flexible. We cut those off several inches into
the plant. (We might clip the largest twig in the photo above,
cutting it out at the tip of the large arrow. That
provides smaller twigs a chance to grow -- those twigs marked by
smaller arrows. )
Yes, these cuts create little gaps in the plant's surface but
since greenery is always coming from below the holes won't show and
the plant is healthier.
There is more about this in Restriction pruning, with
specific examples in articles such as Prune a mugo, Shag
cut for low juniper and others quickly found via
Looking for how to prune a (your plant choice here)? Enter
that plant name along with the word prune in our Search
See "what comes
next" to transcend the fear of cutting
It's like a hair cut -- what we prune out will grow back, even
on a Japanese maple. Yet we know that even when the cuts are made
during a workshop, to plants for which you will not be held
accountable, you will still want to see the outcome. So we schedule
Garden by Janet & Steven sessions at gardens that are
visible from a public way. You can come back later and see how the
patient is doing.
In this session we crouched together under a green laceleaf
Japanese maple at Ray Wiegand's Nursery's display gardens. It's the
best way to see which branches are keepers, which are redundant,
crossing or unattractive... and take them out. (Our special thanks
to Virginia Bergin who agreed to watch through a camera lens so we
could have some photos when Janet was solo.)
Sometimes we just walk and talk to
At the Toledo Botanical Garden for a Garden by Janet &
Steven we met with six others to explore the property,
especially the big shade garden and the hedge-enclosed perennial
Some were there to shoot with Steven, so talk of "what's this
flower" alternated with "What light setting are you using?"
All eyes and cameras tended to come together over the late
summer bloomers, such as this native North American perennial
called burnet, Sanguisorba canadensis.
Check out Steven's touch (below) versus Janet's point and
shoot (right) -- no contest! Yet both photos capture not only the
bloom but the effects of summer drought and extreme heat in the
scorched foliage still being grown over. Both photos also failed
together, in that neither one included a caterpillar-eaten false
indigo (Baptisia australis) just to the right. Turns out
almost everyone in the party had noticed this trouble on what is
normally a pest free plant. (The culprits? Probably Genista
broom moth -- more on that
at the Forum.)
So come join
Almost any week of the year you can check our calendar, choose one
of our Garden By Janet & Steven sessions and come
garden with us or observe. No charge. No strings. We know we all
learn better through hands on experience, so we invite you to our
work sites when we can. We strive to write and illustrate clearly
from real life gardening. Having you there to see, touch and tell
us how it comes across to you does us a world of good.
On our calendar, we post the opportunity and the kind of work
we'll be doing.
You can bring tools and help out, or just observe as you wish.
All we ask is that you let us know you intend to come and give us a
telephone number where we can reach you with the kinds of last
minute changes outdoor work sometimes entails.
To arrange your own Garden by Janet &
Sometimes those who attend ask, "Could
we do this in my garden?" There's more on arranging that
service in About Us: Services: Barn
raisings and workshops
We offer free workshops to share
what we know, but we don't deny there are perks in it for us, like
many hands making light work if people choose to help drag and bag
prunings. Here, Carolyn Reidel, Jim Ranieri, Judy Fritzsche and
Nancy Ranieri manned the over-the-fence end of a branch brigade
when we pruned at Ray Wiegand's Nursery's fabulous display