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Pruning Physocarpus (Ninebark) ‘Diablo’

I ventured outside early this morning with the intention of … well … I actually had no real intention. It was -10 degrees with the wind chill  (maybe a slight exaggeration) and I wanted to see how quickly my nose hairs would freeze. A fun little test of my intestinal fortitude.

Conclusion: It was cold and it hurt like hell.

I lasted about two minutes and then headed back inside. However, I had enough time to check out my Physocarpus ‘Diablo’ and started thinking about how I was going to prune it in the near future.   

And that consumed me all day, all the way up until I started to write this post this evening. 

I have considered pruning it back hard to within a foot of the ground to get nice fresh and vivid foliage this spring. Of course, that would mean sacrificing any blooms and subsequent red seedheads.

I have considered cutting out only the dead wood and some of the older branches to the ground to keep the shrub’s somewhat upright shape. You can easily spot said older gray branches in the photo below:    

OK hold on a minute. Let me take a step back and think this through a bit and provide you some background before I make any pruning decisions.

Here is how the Physocarpus (Ninebark) looked this past summer:  

Already at its ideal size after only three years in the ground.

And how good do the dark colored leaves look against the other shrubs and perennials in front of it?

Nice, huh? I wish I could do nothing and it would stay exactly as it looked this spring/summer. But we all know this shrub grows like mad and precautions need to be taken to keep it in bounds.

Another factor in the pruning decision is whether or not I care about retaining the blooms each season. Here they are. They look nice up close:
    

But I won’t lie, I think they leave a little to be desired from a distance. Quick conclusion = I can survive without them.

By the way, this deciduous shrub looks pretty fantastic in the fall:

And the bark is fantastic when exposed in the winter:

What was I getting at again? Oh yeah, “to prune or not to prune” or really “to severely prune or not to severely prune”. That, my friends, is the question.

… and you will have to wait for an answer for a few more weeks. Some more in depth analysis is required.

That is what we in the business call a cliffhanger.

John     

6 thoughts on “Pruning Physocarpus (Ninebark) ‘Diablo’”

  1. Ahhh, the art of pruning . . . one of the necessary gardening challenges that is boring as well as frustrating. I have three LARGE overgrown winter honeysuckle bushes that require pruning. The thought of doing it requires more energy than the actual “doing.” Maybe I can use last year’s excuse . . .wait to long and not do it at all:-) Your garden is lovely.

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