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My Pruning Challenge

Have you ever had a pruning challenge? See the shrub which has presented me with just that. Find out what I'm doing about it now & in the months to come.

Pruning Challenge

Has a plant ever presented you with a pruning challenge

This shrub has thrown me for a bit of a proverbial pruning curve ball but I’m on it like a fly on you know what. I was once deemed the nickname of “Prunella”, and if I do say so myself, I’m a darn good pruner. I’m not talking about hacking here but well thought pruning when I have a purpose in mind that will benefit the plant. And, me!

I’ve had this Calothamnus quadrifidus “Seaside” (I’ve also seen it called Calothamnus villosus by other growers) in my front garden for 5 or 6 years now. I love it’s wackiness and independence – it grows how it wants to. My neighbor had 3 large pine trees which had grown to block some of the afternoon sun so my Seaside was developing quite the lean in the opposite direction.

Not quite like the tower in Pisa but a lean nonetheless. 2 of those pine trees have been taken out, 1 last year and the other the year before, so the exposure has changed. This happens in gardens over time as plants grow and you just have to go with it and make adjustments. Enter in my pruning challenge.


here’s a full shot of my Calthamnus so you can see what I mean about the lean. this shrub is native to Australia so it’s one tough puppy.


wherever I make a cut, this is the point at which the shrub puts out a lot of new growth – more than I want!

I’m not doing any extensive pruning these days because we’re in the midst of a drought. Not just a drought, but an exceptional drought.  I’ve cut the frequency back on my drip system and don’t want to stress any of my plants. Hopefully we’ll gets lots of rain this winter but in the meantime, I’m just doing light pruning.


 the mid sections of the branches have really thinned out.

I’m sure most of you don’t have this shrub because it’s not a common one. You may have a similar situation though so it’s best to take off a little at a time before you wack away at it. It’s now the beginning of August and here’s what I plan to do with this shrub in the next 8 months:

1) I’m going to continue to take most of the tips down by 4-6″.  This shrub flowers in late Fall through Spring (the vibrant flowers are a most welcome Winter visual pick me up!) but this pruning won’t affect its abundance of flowering. The blooms come on the midway down on the branches and not at the ends like so many other shrubs. The best time to prune flowering shrubs, and other flowering plants, is after bloom time. Because of the way this one flowers, a light pruning in mid-Summer is just fine.


 you can see how it flowers in this pic.

2) As the middle part of this shrub starts to fill in, I’ll take out some of the inner branches. I love the airy, ethereal vibe of this shrub and don’t want it to tun into a dense glob.

3)  I’l let it flower & do it’s thing over the Winter. When the blooming has stopped & the much needed rain has come (all fingers crossed!), then I’ll give it more of an aggressive pruning as needed.


these are some of those inner branches with the new growth coming out every which way. I’ll cut these branches out or selectively pick off some of that growth.

My plan is pretty easy to implement and I always relish a pruning challenge. Speaking of pruning, make sure your pruners are clean and sharp before getting your Edward Scissorhands on – your plants, and your wrists, will thank you.  Also important: be sure you understand how the plant you’re pruning is going to respond because that is key to its success, both aesthetically and in regards to its health . Always have a reason and a clear idea in your mind for all your pruning endeavors.

I’ll give you an update on this shrub next Spring when hopefully this shrub is shaping up exactly how I want it to. The growth habit on this one is so crazy there’s no guarantee!

Here’s a video so you can see my pruning challenge:


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