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Pruning Evergreens in the Winter

Fall is the time that people start to think about wreaths and centerpieces to decorate their doors and tables for the holiday season. No matter what zone or kind of landscape in which you live, you will likely find a plethora of choices to decorate any table or door right outside in your own landscape.

The only tool you will need is a hand pruner, a tool that virtually every gardener has.

While evergreens are predominately used to create holiday centerpiece do not overlook the beauty of deciduous branches. Deciduous berry laden hollies, paper birch, red-twig dogwoods or grape vines are all good choices for creating a variety of textures and colors. When it comes to evergreens try cedar, arborvitae, white pine or blue spruce since they vary in texture and hue. Combining branches of several of these varieties will result in a wonderful bouquet for your table or wreath for your door.

When you have selected a tree or shrub to prune, take branches off in a symmetrical fashion so the plant is left balanced and not lopsided. The actual amount you can take off any one plant is dependent on a myriad of factors but if in doubt take no more then 5% off any one plant. Because you are taking off so little of any one plant, timing of the cuts is not critical.

When pruning a branch, always cut the stem back to a side branch or a bud. Do not snip it off leaving a stub as this can lead to decay in the branch. This is especially important on pines and spruces were removed branches will not send out new growth at the cut off ends of a branch. Herbaceous perennials, which are dying back at this time of year, can be removed at the ground level or at any desired height and integrated into the centerpiece.

Any unused plant material should be composted. This also goes for the wreath or centerpiece itself providing you did not use any toxic glues or paints to create them. One exception however is the highly invasive oriental bittersweet. It is best put in the trash rather than the compost as it will likely germinate in your compost and soon swallow up your landscape.

If you follow these rules you will likely be producing beautiful centerpieces while doing no harm to the plants in your landscape.

Reprinted with permission of Fine Gardening Magazine. All rights reserved.

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