Pruning is one of the most intimidating aspects of gardening. Although certain types of pruning can be done year round, the main pruning season is from late winter into spring. As we approach this time, where can we turn for help? Horticulturist Lee Reich's revised and updated The Pruning Book (Taunton Press, 2010, $21.95) provides a guiding hand. Between straightforward explanations, over 250 photographs, and 135 drawings, Reich's book covers the reasons for pruning, how to choose pruning tools, and descriptions of the various plant responses to pruning, as well as sections on pruning deciduous ornamental shrubs and trees, evergreen trees and shrubs, ornamental vines, edible fruits and nuts, houseplants, and herbaceous plants. In addition, there is information for specialized pruning techniques, including pollarding, pleaching, topiary, standards, mowing, bonsai, and espalier.
Favorite or New Plant
For lifting your spirits during the gray days of winter, turn to the earliest-blooming of the spring-flowering bulbs, the snowdrop (Galanthus species and cultivars). Growing 8 to 12 inches tall, snowdrops bear drooping white flowers touched with green. There are varieties with double flowers and varying petal sizes and markings. Depending on the weather, these flowers start appearing from late December to mid-February. To get started with snowdrops, plant the bulbs in the fall 3 to 4 inches deep in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. The clumps of strap-like leaves can be divided as soon as flowering is finished and the ground is not frozen, or simply left in place for many years. The giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, is hardy to -10 degrees F, while the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, is hardy to -40 degrees F.