It's late August and if your landscape has any claim to age it has grown lush, too lush. Don't worry about pruning a little at the wrong time. All kinds of plants - plants you're admonished to prune in spring or early summer - need a bit of whacking or a touch of snipping in August.
Those admonishments should come with caveats.
Azaleas are to be pruned within six weeks of blooming. After that point buds for next year begin to form. Pruning months after bloom season diminishes next year's bloom. Those are fine botanical facts but what about the real world? Azaleas grown so large, by August, they're touching your windowsill. Keeping a windowsill from rotting is more important than losing a few blooms. Prune only the problem areas and you'll have plentiful blooms next spring.
Blue mophead hydrangeas have passed their blue prime, hanging faded and heavy after each rain. With stress you see their blowsy blossoms resting on other plants, the ground, or blocking a path. There are too many rules about when and how to prune blue mophead hydrangeas. Skip the rules in August and prune only the blossoms causing you stress. Barring a late freeze next spring your hydrangeas will bloom fine.
Jasmine 'Madison' is one of the best fragrant evergreen vines for our area. Once it has grown where desired you might not want to keep all of its summer growth. Now is the time to snip. Snipping only the offending runners will keep you in its fragrance late next spring.
The tall black-eyed Susan, rudbeckia triloba, is a mildly aggressive self-seeder. I keep most of the seedlings. By August the landscape is rife with their nodding gold blooms. A few of the plants are guaranteed to fall over. This character defect has become desirable. Knowing there are plenty of plants standing I don't tie up their fallen comrades. Instead I whack off the entire fallen plant and stuff the resulting bouquet into a large vase. Weeks of beautiful flowers in the house for free.
Orange daylilies lovingly called ditch-lilies have done their thing and are tired. Yellow foliage is engulfing the green. Whack the whole thing to the ground. Yes, yellow and green foliage both. The daylily will flush with new growth, solid green, looking great until frost.
If your nandina has become a problem, snip away the excess foliage keeping the berries. Why miss their fall and winter show? Abelia and cleyera, can be pruned into shape now. Their tendency to sprout whips is a visual nuisance. Use the pruned whips on your patio and in the house for free floral arrangements.
Knowing the rules for proper pruning is important but by August mature landscapes are begging you to break a few rules.
Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. E-mail her at email@example.com.