June pruning projects

When my kids were young, I would spend a lot of time with them outside. I was quite busy the summer that no one was old enough to push themselves on the swing set. During those summer days my mind would often wander. I thought about our newly purchased home. My mind raced with the projects we had completed and the projects yet to be done. While my husband painted every single room, I scraped rock band stickers off of the back of bedroom doors and vacuumed up hundreds of BB gun pellets. The handprints in concrete near the mailbox from the first owner’s children were being covered with grass while the handprints in concrete from our own children on the new front porch shined brightly. We were putting our own touches as a family onto this home. Not surprisingly, the one portion of the home our home that I would think about the most was the landscaping. I would silently praise the original owners for having the foresight to plant the 12 Maple trees that provided us with so much shade. I also enjoyed the wonderfully fragrant lilac blooms. There were plants though that I really didn’t want in my yard. Painting, scraping, and vacuuming were easy chores compared to removing flowers, shrubs and trees. Sometimes just figuring out what things were and whether or not to remove them was even more difficult.

If you have inherited a landscaping from a previous owner or owners there are several items you may want to consider. First, although it sounds really basic, figure out which way the front of your home faces. As a general rule, the South and West sides of your home will be sunny and the North and East sides of your home will be shade to part sun. The next item that you may want to do is, over time, figure out what landscaping you have inherited. Start to put names to plants. There are several community resources that are available to help you with that endeavor. Master Gardeners are at the Prairie Lodge Tuesday mornings and are available to answer your gardening questions regarding plant identification. They are located outside of the Reading room from 10-12 on Tuesdays from now through the end of August. The Huntley Library also has a wonderful selection of gardening books that may be able to help you figure out what plants are in your yard. You may also consider bringing a 4-6” sample of your plant to a local gardening center for identification assistance.

Once you have figured out what you have, you can start to find out more about that plant. Be sure to check into the mature height and width of plants. If there is a plant with a mature height of 10’ planted 3’ from your front door, you may want to consider removing it. Likewise if there is a plant that does best in full sun planted on the north side of your home, it may do best transplanted to the south side.

When we first moved into our home, I could tell that a Royal Red Maple had died and in its place had been planted a very healthy Silver Maple. I wanted to remove the Silver Maple and plant another Royal Red. As with most home projects there was discussion between my husband and myself and then compromise. My husband won and today we have a 45’ Silver Maple in our front yard. The project that would have taken one person with a chainsaw four hours has morphed into a project that would now take 3 guys with several chains two days to complete. While I don’t really mind the tree, the lesson I learned was that if you are going to take a tree out, take it out sooner rather than later. I am not recommending coming into a home and uniformly start taking trees out, just to take trees out. Instead, thoughtfully evaluate the trees and if they should or need to be taken out, then do it while they are smaller rather than waiting until they are larger.

Pruning is also one gardening chore that is often done by second or third owners of homes. The timing of pruning often corresponds to flowering time of the plant. As a very general rule of thumb, plants that flower in the spring should be pruned in the summer and plants that flower in the summer should be prune in late Fall or early Spring.

Moving into a previously owned home can have its frustrations but sometimes the rewards of seeing a flower bloom in an unexpected place makes it all worthwhile.

Kathleen Carr is the owner of The Growing Scene, Inc., a garden center and landscaping company. She can be reached by calling 815-923-7322 or tgsinc12@msn.com. Have a gardening question? Please contact her. She may address it in an upcoming column.

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