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I didn’t post a blog on Friday, but I had a very good excuse…
Frost-damaged Bougainvillea
It was time for my springtime annual pruning.
In my zone 9a garden, we do experience temperatures below freezing and as a result, some of my frost-tender plants always suffer some frost damage.
The best time to do this is once the danger of frost is over, which in my area is approximately March 1st.
Arizona Yellow Bells with frost damage.
I really don’t mind, because they look beautiful 9 months out of the year.
‘Rio Bravo’ Sage needing a trim.
This past Friday, I had no consults, the kids were at school and I wasn’t scheduled to babysit my granddaughter.
So, I put on my old gardening clothes, boots and gloves and headed out into my back garden.
Tobey came out to supervise.
My Bermuda grass is still dormant, but once nighttime temperatures stay above 55 degrees, it will start to green up fast.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, in the upper sixties.  I started first on my Orange Jubilee shrub and then moved on to my ‘Rio Bravo’ Texas Sage shrubs.
 
Every  2 – 3 years, I prune back my ‘Rio Bravo’ severely, which rejuvenates them.  Old wood doesn’t produce as much leaves or flowers and eventually dies.  Severe renewal pruning stimulates new growth and helps keep your shrubs from becoming too large.
To say that I am a bit passionate about pruning flowering shrubs the right way, is an understatement.
You can read more if you like in my previous post….
 I spent three hours pruning 10 large shrubs.  It was so nice to experience the outdoors with nothing to listen to except for the breeze and the birds.
There is something so satisfying about surveying how much work you have accomplished after you have finished pruning.
Of course, after I finished, I went inside and took 2 ibuprofen for my sore back.
I think I will let my husband put my pruned branches in the trash can 😉
How about you?  Are you ready to prune yet? 

I spent last week visiting with a client who was worried that he had lost 80% of his plants to the hard freeze that we had experienced earlier this winter.

I must admit that there was more brown then green in his garden, like the majority of homeowners in our area.  Countless homeowners are anxiously waiting until it is time to start pruning back their frost-damaged shrubs and perennials (myself included).

Personally, I can’t wait to prune back my Bush Lantana, which is not only ugly, but acts like a magnet for trash on a windy day.

 
Drive through any neighborhood in the Phoenix metro area and you will see a lot of brown, crispy-looking plants.
Dwarf Oleander…….
 
Bougainvillea….
Natal Plum….
I think that I will stop here with showing photos of brown, crispy plants because it is getting a bit depressing.
Okay, so here is the big question that I am being asked a lot lately.
“When can I start pruning back this ugly brown stuff?”
The answer is that you can start once the last average date for frost has passed for your area.
Where I live, in the Phoenix metro area, this is usually the beginning of March.  
Soon you will see scores of homeowners digging out their loppers and hand pruners and joyfully start pruning off the ‘brown stuff’ off of their plants.
So, this leads to the next question,
“How can I tell if my plants are even alive?”
Well, this is usually quite easy to figure out.  Remember the client who thought that they had lost 80% of his plants to the hard freeze?  Well, after looking at all of his plants, I only discovered 3 young  lantana that probably did not make it.

This is what I do to tell if a plant is still alive:

Go towards the base of the plant and bend the stems/branches.  If they snap off easily, then that part of the plant is dead.  However, if the stem/branch is flexible and ‘bendy’ then there is live tissue inside.  Even if the branch/stem does break off, look to see if there is live growth inside.  

Below, is a photo of a frost-damaged Bush Lantana that I broke off a small stem off of to see if there was live tissue inside.


If you look carefully, you can see the light-green interior of the branch.  So, this Lantana will recover, but should have all frost-damaged growth removed.
Another clue to look for to be able to tell if your plants are still alive is to look underneath, towards the bottom.  Below, is a photo of a severely frost-damaged Dwarf Oleander that has green leaves underneath.  So, it will recover from the frost-damage.

Okay, now for our last question,

“How do I know how much to prune off of my frost-damaged plants?”

The simple answer is that you prune back to where you see new leaves emerging OR where the branches have live tissue inside.


This Bougainvillea branch (above) has suffered frost damage.  However, look closely.  Can you see the change in color in the branch, from the left side to the right side?

The brown-colored part of the branch on the left side is dead, while the green-color on the right side of the branch indicates that that part is alive.  So, prune where the live part of the branch begins at the closest leaf bud.

If you wait a few weeks and let your frost-damaged plants have a chance to leaf out, that is an even easier way to tell what parts of your plants are alive and what parts are not.

Want more information on how to prune back frost-damaged plants?  Check out “Spring Cleaning In The Garden”.

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Well, the day of my ‘big announcement’ is almost here!

Please come back to visit this Tuesday, March 1st.  
 I can’t hardly wait to share with you what I have been working on lately.

 I hope you all have a wonderful week!
 

One of my favorite flowering shrubs is Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans).  The other day, I spent some time pruning it back with some little hands eager to help.  

Yellow Bells is susceptible to frost damage in the winter and with spring almost here, it was time to prune back the brown tips.

 
My son offered to help me with pruning off the frost damaged tips of our Yellow Bells shrub.  As you can see, the shrub is taller then is.

 
I was happy at how they fared this winter.  Only the tips suffered frost damage.
 

We pruned back the brown, dead growth back to growing buds.

 
I am always happy when any of my children want to help me in the garden, but I particularly enjoyed having my son help me on this day because it is more difficult for him because of his disability.

We adopted our son 5 years ago from China knowing that he had a disability.  He was born with a condition in which some of his joints have limited strength and motion.  In the case of our son, his hands and feet are affected.  
He has had multiple surgeries and it is amazing at what he can do now compared to how limited he was when we adopted him when he was 2 years old.  However, he still struggles with the residual effects of his condition.  He does not always utilize his right hand and quite frankly, favors it while we are repeatedly encouraging him to use it to build up muscle strength.
As a result, I was so happy to see him having to use both hands to prune back our shrub.  He was very committed to doing a good job.
 

How do you think we did?  My son was very proud of the job he did.  I finished up pruning some of the taller branches that he could not reach.
Soon our shrub will be reaching the top of the wall and producing beautiful yellow flowers.