...wattle time we have! Prune now, weave later.
This article Sponsored by:
At the tail end of winter, it's a great time to shape plants and
clip out old canes to make way for fresh new growth.
We like shrubs and trees with clean lines, colorful wood and
youthful vigor. This is the time of year to cut some shrubs right
back to the ground, and remove others' older canes so that when
budbreak comes all their energy will go into replacement wood. As
we work, we gather material for wattle
Some shrubs we chop right down
For instance, we chop butterfly bushes (Buddleia
davidii), blue mist spirea (Caryopteris x
clandonensis) and tea roses to stubs every year. We can also
do that drastic cut yearly, or every two or three years, to dwarf
spirea (Spiraea bumalda varieties) Potentilla and
barberry (Berberis thunbergii). (More in What's
Coming Up Issue 139.)
Others, we thin
At this same time, we remove several old canes from each lilac,
Forsythia, shrub rose, snowball hydrangea, redtwig dogwood
(Cornus stolonifera) and other fast growers we tend.
Below: This redtwig has gone too long without pruning. We
can begin rejuvenation pruning by removing about one third of the
canes. We choose the oldest (thickest, grayest) and chop them as
low to the ground as we can. (Arrows.) After three years the whole
plant will be new again. Alternatively, we can simply cut the whole
shrub to the ground right now.
Wipe your blade with a 10% bleach or peroxide
solution between cuts, to avoid spreading disease that older canes
may harbor, a canker infection common to
old and weak dogwoods.
Why take drastic action rather than gradual renewal
pruning? To answer our impatience and desire for wattle wands, and
because we know this species is willing to cooperate. The
wood in it now is not ideal for wattle work. The canes have become
too thick, and lost both flexibility and color.We know
it can be full of straight, bright wood that will shine next winter
and supply next spring's wattle projects. However,
if we do a three year-, three stage rejuvenation, we won't have
wattle canes from this shrub until the end of that time.
See more about pruning redtwigs for colorful wood in Prune Redtwig if
it's Hard and in What's Coming Up
Isssue #34. Our complete pruning guide includes dozens of
types of shrubs. It's in
What's Coming Up #86.
Recycling what we prune out
We don't send all our clippings to the compost. Some of the
canes have twiggy projections or side branches that make them
useful for staking floppy perennials. Others have the length and
flexibility to become wattle fences.
We save redtwig- and yellowtwig dogwood canes for weaving
fences. (We use other twigs for wattle, too, including butterfly
bush, blue mist spirea, Kerria, etc. But for color plus
flexibility, nothing beats the dogwoods.)
Below: If your redtwig dogwood looks like this, it's more
than ready to give up some of those canes that have become old.
Removing them will net you even more bright red new growth for next
Old canes' thickness and brown or gray bases give them away.
Lop them out or saw them off, cutting as close to the ground as you
can. They become our wattle wands, material for sturdy, pretty fences. No worries -- the
canes you cut out will be back. The new canes grow several feet in
their first year. That's several straight, unbranched, colorful
wattle, wonderful in many ways
Wattle makes a very effective edge. It can also be a design
asset when the twigs that make it are naturally colorful.
Below: Wattle fences keep visitors to the Detroit Zoo on the
path and admiring of our gardens. We weave these in a pattern we
call the Ziggy Zoo.
Last year during a January thaw, we harvested a wealth of
redtwig dogwood by volunteering to trim the shrubs at Michigan
State University's Tollgate Farm.
Below: Fellow Detroit Zoo Adopt-A-Gardeners Anne Crimmins,
Paul Needle, Priscilla Needle, Keith Heraty, Debi Slentz, and Darl
Slentz joined us.
We wrote a fence weaving how-to for Tollgate's own volunteers.
You can download those directions for weaving a wattle
fence we call The Tollgate Twist, from our collection
of presentation materials. Another pattern, Ziggy Zoo, is in "Wattle we
do at the zoo."
January's too cold for weaving and the wood would keep until
March or April. So we stockpiled it at our Detroit Zoo gardens.
Below: We decided to create a bit of winter interest with
the stockpiled bundles.
Below: See the wattle fencing (arrows) around this bed?
That's fence that has served its two years and lost its color.
We'll replace it in spring.
More about wattle fencing in
Coming Up issue #121 ,
Coming Up Issue #139 and
at our Garden by Janet and Steven sessions at the Detroit
Zoo and other places. Watch for such listings in our calendar, Where
We're Appearing, There's more about all our workshops and classes in
the About Us section.
To read more Sponsor-recommended