Update: The DVD goes to Dirt Chick because A, she needs it and B, she made me feel sorry for her shrubs. "Please save my sisters," cried a victim of her Felcos. Who could resist that? Thanks to other commenters for their great stories and the Plant Amnesty recommendation!
Pruning has gotta be the hardest of the gardening practices to teach. It reminds me of the ice skating discussion we had here recently because can you imagine
learning to skate by reading? Or even by watching a video?
So the question arises: How DO you teach people to prune? The gardening coach in me has found the best way is to demonstrate on an actual shrub of the homeowner and instruct them as they take over the job. And by doing it themselves and getting assurances, they get the feel for it, lose their crippling fear of it, and often learn to love it. (Remember the words of Kirra: "Learning to prune it empowering!") Pretty soon it gets to be fun.
Okay, I’m getting worked up. Back to business.
I was recently offered a DVD-ROM about pruning from Fine Gardening Magazine and was eager to see it because of my high regard for the mag. I’ve especially admired their articles about pruning, so I was primed to like this compilation of 39 articles from the magazine, plus 14 short videos. Here’s my review.
My first reaction to the articles was gee, as good as they are, not only were they all in the magazine but they’ve all been helpfully squirreled way on the magazine’s website, so why would anyone pay $25 for them? Then on second thought, the more ways to package useful information, the better. Some people may use it more if they have it in hand, if they’ve invested in it.
I say just get the information out there because people desperately need it. There’s no gardening task that’s done wrong more often than pruning. The word "botched" comes to mind. Or it’s not done at all on shrubs that sorely need it. So I welcome this compilation as a contribution to good pruning education. I saw nothing I disagreed with and much that I know to be true – like encouraging readers to NOT prune hydrangeas at all, to NOT shear but instead to mostly thin and rejuvenate, to allow plants to become their natural shapes, which are far healthier and lovelier than anything we can impose on them. Good pruning is just letting the plant be its best and these writers all know that. They also encourage readers to jump in and not worry so much, especially with the cane-producing shrubs that you really can’t kill by pruning. And there’s Tracy Sabato-Aust demonstrating the pruning of perennials and noted pruning author Lee Reich on trees and shrubs. Good experts.
And about those videos with Lee Reich, he’s easy to listen to, very natural, and the setting is charming. The subject of tool sharpening may sound dry and technical but imagine your instructor wearing old gardening shorts, working at an old picnic table in his lovely country garden, with roosters crowing in the background. The subject may be tools, but the scene and mood are evocative of everything I love about gardening. Or maybe I’m just so starved for the outdoors right now that I get romantic over anything remotely gardenlike, even the sunny meadows of Claritin commercials. The rooster’s a nice touch, though.
But what about the content? Well, over the years I’ve probably read a dozen different articles about sharpening pruners, none of which gave me the confidence to try something as intimidating as dismantling my beloved Felcos. But Lee made it look easy enough – even relaxing! – so I might finally give it a try. My only beef is that the camera action is too often jiggly and blurred. No post-mod film techniques, please. Oh, it could use some text to make it clearer what Lee’s saying. What sounded like "carburendum stone" wasn’t clear and kinda needs to be spelled out for some of us.
I might just buy this DVD as a gift sometime. You can buy it here.
Or better yet, win a free one ($25 value) by telling us your pruning story. Have you killed a plant with your pruners or brought one back from ugliness to its natural beauty again? Have you had an "aha" moment when you’ve suddenly gotten it? Send your stories in a comment until Superbowl start time tomorrow.