Miller: Summer gives way to fall

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, September 6, 2022

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The summer flowers in my garden still brighten the landscape, although they have grown quite leggy. I should have trimmed them back to get one last splash of showy color, but somehow I didn’t have the heart to do it. I know they will be much fuller and produce more flowers if I bring out my electric trimmers and shorten them a bit, but it’s always difficult for me to see the work in progress.

On a sunny afternoon a little more than a while ago, I sauntered along the winding country road on my way home after school. My siblings and other children walked lazily along kicking a rock or chasing a butterfly after a full day at Harrisville Attendance Center.

When I arrived home, I could hardly believe my eyes! All the beautiful flowering shrubs that had graced the yard were practically destroyed! I couldn’t imagine why my parents had chopped them all down. The poor plants littered the lawn seemingly everywhere I turned.

“What happened to the plants?”

“They needed a little trim so they can grow back strong and full.”

I remember thinking that the shrubs would never be beautiful again. Without having ever seen the rejuvenation process of plants that had been pruned, I could only see the ugly sticks showing and felt quite bereft. It seems funny to me now that a child would be so concerned with such things, but I’ve always loved nature.

Over time the horribly ugly plants started to recover and to my delight they did come back more beautiful than ever. With this thought in mind, I suppose I will now be able to imagine how pretty my plants will be in a few days and force myself to get out the trimmers.

It is important to prune plants at the correct time of year. The optimum time to trim bushes like spring flowering shrubs is during their growing season. At this time it is easy to identify blooms and prune around them. In order to maintain the size of a shrub, it is best to prune after buds bloom.

Summer flowering shrubs should be pruned in late winter or early spring in order to coax more flowers into bloom. The experts seem to agree that fall pruning can be dangerous for any type of shrub. Fall pruning can encourage late season growth in your plants. This can easily be the demise of a plant if there is an early frost, and the new growth hasn’t had time to harden.

My pretty plants are annuals and will be pulled out of the ground and thrown on the compost heap soon, so pruning them will not harm them this late in the season. Actually, even though the calendar says summer is almost ready to give way to fall, those of us from the Deep South know that Sept. 22 will probably still find us with warm temperatures. But when those cool temperatures finally reach us, no one appreciates them more than we do.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at