Guide to

What, When, Where &
How to Prune for a
More Beautiful Garden

Cass Turnbull
We used to wonder why people went so daffy over their gardens. Now we know.

It isn't the passion, though there is "crotching," "flopping," "suckers" (true or graft union), "mounting-habits," "dropcrotching," and (watch it!) the "butt flare" --- this last being the lowest part of the trunk from which the suckers protrude. We won't even mention the "whips" and the "spurs."

Nor is it those garden growths that come from outer space --- "moon shots" and "Heavenly Bamboo." It isn't the woeful "Weeping Cherry" nor the childish "puppy-dog tails" (they turn up in evergreen azaleas: these pesky branches that just shoot up over the rest of the bush).

No, it's none of these, dummy. It's the poetry. Listen to these:

  • forsythia
  • juniper
  • magnolia
  • cotoneaster
  • bamboo
Or hear Beckett's favorite, from All That Fall, "there's that lovely viburnum again."

Here, let's compose a poem that uses only the most sonorous of words from your garden:

    My lovely artemisa,
    You came dressed in lavender gloss
    With a decidous perfume that enfolded frail arms.
    Infinite hydrangeas of infinite sorrow.
    A wistful wisteria, my sorrowful artemisa; and you,
    My sweet, barely escaped from the stony sunscald:
    Were you there at all,
    My lovely artemisa?

§     §     §

Outside of the cotoneaster and the abelia, Cass Turnbull is a fine gardener. But she is a bit of a scold. You must do it this way, not that, she tells us:

  • Stay away from flush cuts (always saw away dead limbs on an angle.)
  • Wound paints and pruning seals you get from your garden shop will not prevent decay.
  • Forget fertilizing a sick tree.
  • After a tree transplant, do not cut back branches.
  • Tightly staking a tree that is newly planted will result in weaker trunks.
Turnbull is a gardener's gardener, and, as far as we can see, has only left out one important fact in The Guide to Pruning.

That is: How do you prune a prune-tree?

--- Leslie George
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