Start Pruning Your Life: Cutting Back to Grow More


It’s that time of the year that you should be thinking of pruning back some of those overgrown shrubs and trees.  This truly is the perfect time of the year to see the branching of the plants to properly prune. With leaves off of plants one can see many issues.  One issue can be criss-crossing of branches.  Branches that are crossing sometimes lead to areas where there is rubbing of the wood-causing rubbing of the wood where disease and insects  can burrow inside.  Another advantage to dormant pruning is one is able to see dead, diseased or injured wood. Pruning cuts made during the dormant season have time to heal before the plant produces new growth in spring.  When Spring comes around and the leaves start filling in, it can be too late. Often, I see other companies go in to prune with gas powered shears in the Summer, with no thought for the actual growth of the plant or tree. In the end you are dealing with a very ugly and unnatural looking ball that does not represent the actual beauty of the specimen you are growing. This also can lead to disease of the plant as the tighter the ball the less air movement.  The other advantages of pruning in spring are simple: pests and disease is drastically cut down. Pruning during late Spring, Summer and early Fall makes plants more vulnerable to an assortment of disease and pests. Pruning during the Spring gives you the upper hand on properly training your shrubs and trees. Dormant pruning is pretty simple and highly effective. In the end it will save you time and money. Do the proper thing and contact us for a free estimate!

Proper mulching techniques

When and when not to mulch – that is the question! I have been to numerous homeowner associations and residential properties where I have seen mulch that was applied incorrectly. Either it was the incorrect type of mulch, not enough mulch, entirely too much mulch, or mulch that looks so old it’s petrified.


What I see 9 times out of 10 is mulch that has been over applied. We have to remember that mulch is a natural material and that it WILL break down over time. If you feel the need to add mulch, please first go and take a look at what your depth is (proper mulch depth should be between 2.5-3 inches). If you notice that it is at the correct depth, take a hard rake, fluff the mulch to even out the decomposition process and give it a better appearance. You’ll not only save money – you’ll also stop the build up of mulch and avoid creating disease and inviting problem pests that damage the foundation of your house and plants. Plus, you’ll spruce up the old mulch so it does not look old and petrified, giving it a much more professional appearance. If you feel the need to swap out a different type of mulch, don’t just throw it on top of the previous mulch. Take a hard rake and rake off the previous mulch, dispose of it, and add the new mulch. This will stop the buildup of mulch around your garden beds, giving it a happier and rejuvenated look (feeling?)!


All of these steps take time and I’ve had multiple people not understand the end result. They take the route they wanted and it ends up costing them much more in the end. It does take time for a garden to buildup with mulch, but with time if you do not fix the problem, it will become a much bigger issue.


In relation to my last post about proper tree planting – do not add mulch around the base of your tree. Instead, move the mulch back a few inches to provide a spot that bugs and disease cannot thrive in.


The magic of water in the garden

There is something about the sound of water in the garden. Perhaps it reminds us of time spent in the wild, camping or hiking or picnicking. The gurgles, splashes and tinkles add depth and deepens our sense of spaciousness.

There are many ways to add water to your landscape, some very small, others large. There are a variety of pre-made and do-it-yourself kits for birdbaths and rock basins with pumps that recirculate water, creating sound as well as an attraction for garden wildlife.

Garden’s Grace recently installed a pondless waterfall–basically a recirculating short stream bed with a falls at the top and a basin at the bottom. Boulders and river rock are common materials used in the construction of such features. Skilled design of such water features can create low-maintenance additions to the garden that work in harmony with the garden’s overall theme, be it native, modern or somewhere in between.

Ponds with falls are often used in larger gardens and enable the use of garden plants at home in water like Colocasia (Elephant Ears), Cypress and water lilies.

Take a look at the following images that show the process that resulted in our most recent water addition to a Des Moines  garden.





















As always, don’t hesitate to contact Garden’s Grace to help you discover ways to add water to your landscape!

Blog written by Anne Larson, Des Moines area horticulturist and writer for Iowa Gardener Magazine, and a weekend associate with Miller Nursery.