By Taylor Lewis, nursery manager, Arboretum Teaching Nursery
Today (11/29/19), I noticed that my Chinese fringe flower (Lorapetalum chinensis) was in need of a haircut. This is a specimen currently located in the demonstration planting beds adjacent to the Arboretum Teaching Nursery. Because I inherited it, I’m unsure which cultivar it is; my best guess is Lorapetalum chinensis ‘Razzleberry’.
I’d been keeping it pruned down and outwards at about 4-5’ so that I could see over the top of the shrub. Today it was about 6 1/2’ and I had to make the decision: prune it up or prune it down? By up I mean lift the branches up to show off the nice trunk work they can have. By down I mean prune off those upper shoots and reduce the height under 5’ again.
Since I’ve been raising it to eventually prune up, I figured it was time to go to work!
I cut my way inside and under the shrub to see what I was going on "under the hood." I found six vertical main trunks and one coming out at a strange angle; we’ll come back to that.
First, I removed much of the dead leafless sticks that are pervasive inside most any shrub, primarily using my fingers to snap them off. Second, I used my Felcos (hand pruners) to remove the larger, greener, yet crossing branches and also the bottom 18-24” of branches around the skirt.
I am mostly liking what I see: fairly open form with nice vase-like growth starting around 20”. What I don’t like are the two branches growing towards me as they’re much more immediately horizontal than the other 85% of the trunks. Those two branches are a big chunk of the sidewalk and street view. Removing them will really change the shape. I need to think it over. I’ll clean up tonight and look again with fresh eyes tomorrow; plus I’m losing light.
I bet you saw this coming?
I couldn’t rationalize keeping the two branches. One, they would need to be trimmed anyway to keep them off the sidewalk. And two, it looked unbalanced. Looks like I might need to add more bark mulch. So far I've planted three Hellebores which love the shade this perennial throws.
That really opened up the area. I’ve created a whole new planting bed and now will consider what else to add.
Thanks for reading!