Hello, garden friends.

I appreciate and enjoy looking at well-manicured gardens; then there are other gardens about which  I scratch my head and wonder, “What was the homeowner or gardener thinking?”

I am speaking about pruning shrubs and deadheading annuals and perennials. 

Let’s begin with shrubs. It really saddens me when shrubs are turned in all different geometric shapes. I will make this very clear: shrubs should never be butchered and rounded over and over. 

I am assuming these shrubs were pruned by so-called gardeners. I see this all throughout town; it’s very obvious, these people do not understand any common horticulture practices. The only time shrubs are pruned into hedges or odd shapes is when they’re within the landscape design. 

Shrubs are meant to grow free and open. To correctly prune shrubs, open from the center, removing cross branches. This allows air circulation and light to reach inner skeletal branches. When pruning the top, be selective; this will keep the shrub looking like a shrub. 

Another disadvantage with improper pruning is it disturbs photosynthesis. This is how plants generate natural nutrients. 

Finally, let’s discuss deadheading of annuals and perennials flowers. 

One should never just take a pair of head shears and chop their tops off. Again, it’s all about being selective. 

Take your time and study your plants. 

Prune down to a healthy node and make your cut there. 

When finished, fertilize with an organic plant food. The whole idea is to promote new growth and flowering. 

Buy a fertilizer with a proper NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) mix. Choose an NPK with more phosphorus, potassium and very little nitrogen. 

Mark Koehler

Mark Koehler of Los Banos is an arborist and master gardener, who has degrees in Landscape Architecture and Landscape Horticulture from UC Berkeley and Northeastern University.