To Plant or Prune, and When…Hmm?

When working on a recent “very late” fall garden project for a client I was reminded how important selecting the right plants is to ensure greater odds of the new plantings surviving the winter months and taking root in the spring. My client was very keen on planting Columnar Dawyck Purple Beech trees. Our nursery supplier strongly discouraged this because it was so late in the season and we had already had snow. While Beech trees are best pruned in late winter when the plant is dormant and internal fluids are not actively moving through the tree, planting past frost is not advised. The same was true of my client’s second choice Columnar English Oaks. So, we opted for Chinese Dogwood, Japanese Red Maples and White Birch which are more forgiving for a late season planting.


We took our chance on the Yews, Hemlocks and Boxwood, even a late lawn was laid. We shall see in the spring, but so far things look promising. Of course pruning in late fall or winter is not advised for these plants, so we’ll have to wait until Late March or early April, before the new growth begins. Light pruning may also be done in late June or early July. Pruning evergreens in the fall makes most evergreens more susceptible to winter injury.

Being the Fussy Gardener made it extremely difficult to hold back from giving shape and form to these new Yew and Boxwood hedges, but I restrained my impulses. Always best to wait until spring.