Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Little Pinch Can Be a Good Thing

Question: I read instructions on a type of plant that said for stronger growth you should pinch off a part of the plant. What does that mean?

Answer: Usually, the plant in question will grow tall and even somewhat leggy if it is left unpinched. Tall, leggy plants tend to flop over and need staking besides being oftentimes less attractive. The term "pinch" can be confusing to gardeners who aren't familiar with it because to pinch a plant is not to pinch it literally. However, many plants have soft, succulent growth during the growing season that is easily nipped off by "pinching" it between one's thumb and forefinger (nice if the pruners are all the way back in the garage). However, you are actually intending to remove growth here not just pinch it.

When you remove growth, you promote branching. More branching will mean bushier, more compact plants that resist flopping and often look better than unpinched plants. For example, many people grow 'garden mums' (a.k.a. chrysanthemums) for fall color. Without pinching, these plants will bloom earlier in the season because pinching delays bloom (so no fall color) and they will often be tall and leggy and prone to flopping over. You don't always have to pinch back plants. Some are either bred to be compact and bushy or are naturally that way. (or sometimes the pinching is done for you as when our customers come and buy bushy, blooming garden mums in fall. We've already done all the necessary pinching.)

The schedule for this usually starts in late spring once the plant has about 4-5 inches of growth on it. At that point, the tips of the plant are "pinched back" to the next set of leaves. You let the plant branch and grow 4-5 more inches and pinch it again (just to the next set of leaves not all the way back). Usually, you pinch back around 3 to 4 times in a season. Around mid-July, one generally stops pinching (depends on the plant) and lets the plant continue to develop.

-Tina Mast, Communications Director

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Edition of Vital Plant Reference Book!

Ok, this probably qualifies as one of those news tidbits that people in our industry are more likely to be interested in but serious plant lovers will want to know this, too. The new 6th edition of Dr. Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants has been published! For those of you who didn't get glazed over just reading the title and seeing the word "manual", this new edition has over 2,000 new species and cultivars listed as well as expanded descriptions of former entries. This plant nerd, at least, is excited! If you've never seen the manual but are really interested in trees and shrubs, you're welcome to come by and peruse our much-loved, much-abused 5th edition in the nursery office. It's a great reference for thousands of plants.

-Tina Mast, Communications Director