It was the perfect day to get out in the garden and do some winter cleaning and pruning. This is the time of year when the "bones" of the garden can be seen most easily, so I like to prune those trees and shrubs that can tolerate it during the winter.
One of my friends talks about having "prune-a-phobia," and jokes that she's always sure she'll make a wrong cut, and ruin the plant for life. Today's projects would have been perfect for her, since they were both tough as nails plants.
We started with the Yellow Anise Tree (Illicium parvifolium), which had really grown out of control in the past year. It's native to the Southeast, so can take a lot of abuse, and always looks good. We have it as a casual hedge in an area under the tree canopy, where we want privacy at neighbors' eye level. Since it had started to get really leggy and wasn't doing it's intended job as well anymore, this was the perfect opportunity to get out there and prune in a way to encourage side branching and bushier growth in the spring. It is such a treat to have something that consistently looks elegant and dark glossy green, even while getting attention just once or twice a year! The fact that it has a great fragrance and interesting bloom is just icing on the cake!
Since the next area over in the garden is a group of Cherry Laurels (Prunus caroliniana), this was the perfect opportunity for some clean up, as well. The plant snobs are usually not fans of homely Cherry Laurel, and it can sometimes be invasive, but it's very sturdy for the somewhat shady, poorly drained space where we have it. Over the past couple of years, it has become my project for a "pleached hedge." It looks pretty cool, like a hedge on stilts! Since we have a privacy fence behind them, the row of naked trunks look really great in the winter light; in the summer the trunks are somewhat hidden by the panicle hydrangeas that grow in front of them, so it's almost something to look forward to in winter. If you've never tried "pleaching," it's a fun project for the gardener who wants to do something different! (This photo is from a nursery that sells pleached Cherry Laurel, not my garden, but the look is similar --- though I only have seven trees in the hedge).