People ask me this time of year if they can prune many of the plants that went unnoticed in their gardens up until recently. When the leaves fall attention is drawn to evergreens, shrubs and trees on the property.

The short answer is that you can prune almost anything this time of year without damaging the plant.

Permanent or "woody" plants like cedar hedges, boxwood, yews, junipers and the like lend themselves very nicely to a late-season haircut.

It gets a little tricky with flowering shrubs, especially if you want to maximize the flowering potential of the shrubs on your property.

As a rule of thumb prune fall flowering shrubs like Rose of Sharon, late flowering hydrangea and Buddleja (Butterfly Bush) at any time in the fall. Early spring flowering shrubs like forsythia, purple leaf sand cherry, crabapples and the like should be pruned in late spring after they have flowered, or in the early summer. The buds that will produce the flower come spring have already formed, so pruning them now means taking the risk of diminishing the plant's flowering potential next spring.

Perennials generally should be cut back in the spring. Allowing the sturdy flowering plants to remain standing over the winter invites song birds in search of the seed as a food source. These plants also add some winter interest in the garden. Soft-stemmed perennials like hosta and peonies are best cut down in the fall and the cut portion put in your composter.

Finally, roses generally are cut down come spring unless there is a risk of them breaking in the winter due to heavy winds.

Mark Cullen

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