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Riverland Nursery pruning talk.
Riverland Nursery pruning talk.

Mayer Berg, owner of Riverland Nursery in Fort Myers has a commitment to educating his customers about gardening. Most weekends they host talks on topics like roses, herbs, butterfly gardens, container gardening, etc. He asked me to guide home owners though the topic of pruning their landscape plants.

His garden center is unique in many ways: they have a widely diverse plant selection, expert sales staff, display gardens, and a dedicated classroom. There is room for about 60 chairs in this narrow auditorium.

I showed up on a Saturday morning, set up the screen/laptop/projector. Then laid out a table of surgical steel pruning instruments and volunteer plants to be shaped. I made up a list of “Slower, Lower Growing Plants” to help people spend less time pruning and more time enjoying their landscape. 30 copies proved to be insufficient.

By 10:00 AM the room was beyond capacity. Mayer ushered late-comers behind the screen who sat kindly until the slides were done. Then we walked outdoors where I chopped up various shrubs describing how to divide gingers and propagate Dracaenas.

One of the greatest mistakes made in urban landscaping is ignoring the mature size of plants. Some people shortsightedly buy plants they like and expect them to remain small forever. I like to chide audiences that I used to weigh 8 1/2 pounds, but things have changed over the years.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Smith Tree and Landscaping in Lansing, Michigan for hiring me in the 70’s during college, and to Baudista Sato from Micronesia for teaching me meticulous hand-pruning techniques that I pass on to others today.

P.S. Something else unique about Riverland Nursery that day: they had nothing to sell. What I mean is those people were there to learn techniques, not to buy anything. I recommended another company, Forestry Resources Landscape Supply, as the place to buy pruning tools.

People walked away as better gardeners. Mission accomplished.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Steven says:

    Okay…so I have a massive (12’dia and 9′ tall) cardboard palm growing a against my house. I’d like to cut it way back but I’m not sure if I can just us hedge clippers. If it requires individual pruning it will be a massive and somewhat dangerous job. Advice?

    1. Bob Cook says:

      Sounds like an overgrown plant, for the location. If it’s necessary to prune it severely, consider transplanting it to a roomier place in the landscape. Hedge sheers won’t be the best tool: loppers will be better. Prune individual fronds to the ground. By sheering or tipping a frond, it will not regrow or branch like a typical shrub. It will be better to cut it off at the base.

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