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Saturday, December 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Delay pruning young shrubs until spring

Young mountain boxwood shrubs grow in a greenhouse.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Young mountain boxwood shrubs grow in a greenhouse. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokesman-Review

We always enjoy the information you give us in your columns.

We live in Liberty Lake and when the house was built two years ago the landscaper planted a few of what I think are boxwoods. The leaves are yellow and green. The bush has strong upright stems and is getting out of hand, blocking our view of the vegetable garden. I know I could shear it, or at least thin out some of the branches. But what is the best time to do that? I find conflicting information on the Web.

Irene Silverman

There is a variety of boxwood that is variegated yellow and green. However boxwood is a slow-growing shrub so unless your windows are really low, I wonder if they really are boxwood. There are a couple of other shrubs they could be. Before you start cutting, bring some branches into the Master Gardener Clinic before the end of October and get them properly identified.

Your question brings up a good point as we head into fall. Most pruning on spring blooming shrubs should wait until after they bloom in the spring. Hydrangea should also not be pruned until after they bloom next year as the buds for next year’s flowers are overwintering on the ends of the branches. Pruning them now cuts off the blooms. Other shrubs can be lightly shaped now but any heavy pruning should wait until spring when the weather warms. Lastly, not all shrubs should be turned into little round balls. In fact most shrubs look better and are easier to maintain if they are allowed to grow in their natural shape. Get your shrub properly identified and then look up how it should be pruned.

A rose by another name

How hardy is Rose of Sharon?

Ebba Ostrom, Suncrest

Rose of Sharon, or Hibiscus syranicus, is hardy to about -10 degrees, which makes it hardy in the warmer parts of the region. If you are close to the lake you can probably borrow from the lake effect that keeps the shoreline a little warmer than gardens a few feet up on the slopes. Most of the hibiscus family are tropical plants that live in the south or the tropics. This and, maybe one other hibiscus, are hardy to colder areas so be careful what you buy - especially from catalogs. I would stick to a quality local nursery. Remember, young plants need to be mulched in the winter with six inches of pine needles or straw.

Rose of Sharon has been described as a hollyhock flower on a shrub, and can come in white, pink, red, violet and mixes of these colors. The plant needs heat to do well and can handle a little drought. It likes a good quality soil with some organic matter added. The plant forms a shrub that can be trained into a single trunk or plants can be trained into a hedge. Protect the planting from winter winds.

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