To Prune or Not to Prune?

pink roses
There are different theories on the proper time to prune a plant.  When we bought this house twenty years ago there were dozens of rose bushes, front and back. I “hard” pruned them once a year in January, removing crossing branches and dead limbs and leaving little more that a few inches of stem. My neighbor looked on aghast, but I assured him all was well. Sure enough, the flowers bloomed year after year.

I’m not a big fan of roses, so we gradually replaced them with other plants. One of our neighbors took all of the pink roses and transplanted them in the garden of her rental property. It was nice to see them go to a good home.

rose bushes 2010

2010: Rose bushes on their way out.

About five years ago we added some hydrangeas in a few shady garden spots. The first year I pruned the plants in the fall after the blooms turned to a crumbly brown. A few of them came back looking good, but some of the others looked so-so. When I researched the proper time to prune them I got mixed answers. Some of the articles said to prune in the fall if the flowers bloomed on new wood. Others suggested pruning in the spring. I got up close to each plant and honestly couldn’t tell which was which

Last fall I decided to split the difference. I left a few of the plants untouched, while pruning the others just above the buds.

Now I know.

All of the hydrangeas are showing new growth, but the ones I left untouched look healthier. The growth appeared just below last year’s spent bloom. It was a wonderful experience cutting off the dead blooms and exposing the lovely lime green of new growth below. Don’t you just love that color?

Hydrangea: Spent blooms and new growth

Hydrangea: Spent blooms and new growth

hydrangea new growth

Hydrangea: New growth on old wood?

pink hydrangea

Hydrangea: A small bloom…in February.

hydrangea leaves

Hydrangea: New life underway

According to this first article in Fine Gardening, “knowing if your shrub blooms on old or new wood will help you make timely cuts.”

The same site shared this video, saying it depends on when your hydrangea blooms, spring or fall. Since ours bloom in the spring but continue to bloom through the fall, it seems that I should have pruned last fall after all.

I’m back to being confused.

I’ll report back in a few months when the plants are in bloom. Life in the garden is never dull.

Garden Walks

One of our favorite summer pastimes at the end of a hot day is taking a walk.  The days are long so the sun is still up past 8 here in Silicon Valley.  It’s nice to simply head out the front door and meander through the neighborhood.

Mighty Mouse likes to follow us down the block, though on our last walk, he encountered a territorial feline.  ‘Words’ were exchanged, but he thought better of an altercation and returned home. I worry about him when he heads toward the park, so if he insists on coming we just circle the block instead.

Aside from the balmy weather and my husband’s good company, I love checking out all the gardens. It’s a great way to get ideas for your own yard.

I wish I could identify all the plants we see, but since half the fun is speculating, I’ll let you guess along with me.


A fabulous pumpkin growing along a cute picket fence.

pink rose

I love this shade of rose. Do you know the variety?

white rose

More roses

striped green foliage

Gorgeous foliage, unknown plant.

orange flower

Any ideas? It’s a bulb of some kind.


I didn’t think we could grow apples in the Valley. I thought they needed a good frost.

flower hip

I wonder what this was? It reminds me of a rose hip, but the foliage looks like a different plant entirely.

Oh, and I think Mouse’s ears were burning when I greeted this kitty at the curb. I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance. This sweet kitty has personality to spare as well.

Mouse and doppleganger

Thanks for joining me on my virtual walk. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by.

A Taste of Fall: Flower Season Winding Down

The air feels like early fall today.  It really cooled down in the past 24 hours.  The crisp breeze foreshadows the season to come.

We’ve enjoyed a week of warm weather, lasting well into the evening, enjoying several meals on the patio. Today it’s 15 degrees cooler than predicted.  As our days are shorten the pumpkin leaves are turning a tell-tale brown.  Even my beloved cosmos are showing signs of decay.  In California, warm weather continues well into October, but the growing season is definitely winding down.

It dawned on me today that the bounty of flowers we’ve enjoyed all summer will soon be a sweet memory. I decided to take pictures of each lusty bloom. Mother Nature is about to pull a blanket over the garden.  Summer annuals will finish their cycle as they set seed and wither.  Perennials go dormant.  The Chinese Pistache treats us to an autumn show, with golden, red and amber leaves drifting to the ground below.  The maple out back does a strip tease as well, but often in slow motion.  Depending on the wind and the rain, our maple may hang on to the changing leaves for some time.

So to my lovely garden belles, arranged below in rainbow order, won’t you please take a bow?

Firecracker Annual

Blooming Since July, Part of the 4th of July Trio

Carpet Roses

Carpet Roses at the bottom of the ramp

Garnet Penstemon

Garnet Penstemon rustling under the Magnolia

Dusty Pink Hydrangea

Dusty Pink Hydrangea, spectacular under the living room

Pink Vinca

Pink Vinca lives in a pot on the back steps


Sunflower: The first of the Season

Yellow Daylily

Yellow Daylily fans out under the Magnolia tree

Yellow Four o'clock Flower

Yellow Four o’clock Flower re-seeded from last summer adds cheer to a shady side yard

Yellow Snapdragons

Yellow Snapdragons, a hardy little annual

Pumpkin Flower (Male)

Male pumpkin flower, hopeful, even at this late date

purple bellflower

Purple Bellflowers surround our patio

Dwarf Plumbago

Dwarf Plumbago sits below the tall grass in a corner of the front yard

Status Annual

This bluish status was part of my red, white and blue display for July 4th.

English Lavender

English Lavender lines the bottom of the front deck and attracts lots of beneficial bees.

Sweet Alyssum

Sweet Alyssum completes the trio of red, white and blue 4th of July plants.

White Magnolia

White Magnolia cradles a bee


Anemone run along the back rock wall. They’ve taken over that corner of the garden.

Wild Onion

Wild Onion
A garden surprise this summer

White Begonia

Begonia always remind me of my mother

Are you curious what these blooms look like before they flower? Find out on Flower Buds: The Shape of Things to Come.
If you linked back for answers to the quiz: Who’s who or what’s what? the answers are:
a. 4 Hydrangea
b. 1 Allium Stellatum
c. 2 anemone
d. 3 Four o’clock
e. 5 Snapdragon

The Ladybug Diet

Water First to Disperse the Pests

Water First

Weight Watchers teaches you to eat well, and South Beach helps break sugar cravings, but have you heard of the Ladybug Diet?  Those red-spotted beauties consume several times their body weight, ridding your roses of numerous garden pests.  I wish I could consume several times my body weight in a day and remain looking as fresh as the Coccinella septempunctata.

Ladybugs, also referred to as ladybirds, eat Aphids, Spider Mites, Thrips, White Fly and other harmful pests.  They are a boon to organic gardeners and a treat for the youngsters in the house, who enjoy setting them out at dusk.

Most garden centers now sell containers of live lady bugs.  I bought ours at Almaden Valley Nursery. Keep them in a cool place during the day when they’re inactive.

Tuesday night we watered the infested plant, cut open the mesh bag and offered them dinner.  By morning, they had done a decent job eradicating the pests.   Some years it takes two “applications” to wipe out the aphids or flies, but it’s always a treat to see hundreds of them gathered in one place so we don’t mind.

Ladybugs and Aphids

Ladybugs and Aphids

Garden Lady's: Nature's Pest Control

Garden Lady’s: Nature’s Pest Control

Dinner Awaits

Dinner Awaits

It's 9:00.  Do you know where your ladybugs are?

It’s 9:00. Do you know where your ladybugs are?

Read more about these farming heroes and the origin of the ladybug rhyme at Animal Planet.