A couple of weeks ago, we were spending our weekly visit with my husband’s parents.  Because my father-in-law is suffering from ALS, he can no longer do anything around the house or the garden for that matter.

My father-in-law always did his own landscaping chores.  He took great pride in having a meticulous landscape.  And yes, that included pruning his shrubs into round, green balls 😉


We would often tease each other, because I love the more ‘natural’ look as opposed to his more formal landscaping.  
Now that I help out in his garden, I am very careful not to leave any debris behind such as fallen leaves or leaf for that matter.  You see, his garden is so clean, you would almost think that he vacuumed it.
In my garden, I feel like my garden is clean if I use a leaf-blower once a year 😉
Well, back to our visit with my in-laws.  My father-in-law asked me if I would prune back his flowering Gold Lantana.
Oh boy, this was a big deal.  You see, I do not like to prune any plants that are flowering.  In fact, I get up on my soapbox often, preaching against it.
But, you know what I did?
 I pruned it…..
You can see how much I removed in the pile to the left.
My father-in-law even came outside with his walker to see how it looked, which as a big deal since he has a lot of difficulty walking now.
So why did I do it?  
Well there are two reasons.
First, it is okay to lightly prune plants that are growing large this month.  Now, my father-in-law’s Lantana really did not need to be pruned, but I knew it wouldn’t hurt them.

When pruning in August, I would avoid pruning more then 1/3.  The reason is that as fall approaches (I know it’s hard to believe with temps still in the low 100’s), plants will continue to grow until the cooler weather arrives.  So that nice-sized flowering plant can become too big by the time November comes around.

So if possible, I wouldn’t prune unless your plant is outgrowing its space.  But, if you prune lightly in August, you should be okay until spring, when you can prune your plants back more severely.

The second and most important reason that I pruned back my father-in-law’s Lantana is because I love him and I know how much his garden means to him.  I realize how hard it must be for him to not be able to do much of anything now.

After I was finished pruning back his Lantana (which really didn’t need it), I could see in his eyes how happy it made him.  He typed “Thank you” on his iPad, which is how he communicates now.  The software he uses actually ‘speaks’ whatever he types in.

Sadly, even now that is now hard for him to do.  It is harder for him to type with his one finger, which is the way he has always typed.

Yesterday was my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary.  My father-in-law ‘texted’ my husband asking him if he could arrange to have roses delivered to my mother-in-law. 

The words he asked to be put on the card were simple, yet communicated everything:
“Thank you, my love.”

That simple phrase brought tears to my eyes.

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

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