Dedicated to Master Gardeners & to All Who Aspire To Prune With Confidence

The past few days have presented us with marvelous weather in these parts. I’ve finally gotten outdoors and pruned my three blueberry bushes, the pear tree, the hydrangea, and trained the boysenberry bushes.

The blueberries are of different varieties and seem a bit different in the way I should be pruning them. And even though I got my Master Gardener certification and grew up on a farm, I still struggle with this. Sigh.


Blueberry Bushes

Sometimes I google and watch videos on pruning. Sometimes I get out my notes and instructions from Master Gardener class. My sister gave me a few tips this year, and I looked at different web pages than I usually do. You know, the promised “6 easy steps” ones.


Training the Boysenberry Bush

One thing I know for sure: It was vastly easier writing the scene in Heirloom about blueberry pruning than it has been for me in real life!

Excerpt from Heirloom:

When they reached the shed, a number of tools remained, although old and ragged. Jason grabbed a pair of clippers and retreated to the blueberry garden. Clare trailed behind, glad he had taken the lead. She didn’t feel ready to take the life of a blueberry bush in her hands.

“Anywhere?” Jason asked a classmate who stood idly by a bush as her partner snipped away.

“I think so.”

“Clare, you wanna cut first?”

“No, uh, you go ahead.”

“Okay then, you show me which ones.”

“What? No. I mean, I sorta drifted off during the instructions.”

“Well, let’s see,” he wrapped the blades around a dead-looking cane, “dead, damaged, or diseased first.” He cut out three canes.

“Hmm. Pencil-sized whips?” Clare suggested.

“Sure.” He snipped off the stragglers. “Now what?”

“Well…” She leaned in, touched a long cane that crossed through the middle of the plant. “How about this one? Didn’t she say something about keeping the middle open?”

Snip. Jason cut it off and ripped it from the bush.

“Oh, I was only asking,” Clare gasped, surprised at his sudden action.

“No, you were right. What else?”

“Um, how about these? They look like older wood,” she said, touching a couple of more canes.

Snip, snip. “Done.” He went at it quickly, without hesitation or second-guessing.

“Have you done this before?” she asked.

“Nope. What next, boss?”

She stared at the mass of branches jutting out from the bush. It was so confusing.

“Come on, Clare. Don’t worry so much about it. Live a little.

When she hesitated, he whacked off several more branches, then broke off some spindly growth with his gloved hand. He leaned back to admire his handiwork. “I think that’s good,” he said. “You wanna do the next one?”

“Um …”

“You can do it. And I’m here, too. Teamwork.”

“Clare placed the blades around a sad-looking cane, fairly certain about the first cut but checking with Jason to be sure. He rolled his eyes. She cut the cane and pulled in gingerly out of the plant. Her hand ran into someone’s thigh.

“Oh! I didn’t know you were there,” she said. “Excuse me.” Genevieve stood behind her, watching. “Was that right?”

“Yes, nice job. Carry on, youngsters.”

What about you? Do you prune with abandon, or are you full of doubt like Clare and me?

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed SaversVisit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

3 comments on “Dedicated to Master Gardeners & to All Who Aspire To Prune With Confidence

  1. I just pretend I know what I am doing. No one else here knows the difference, and my trees and berries keep producing!

    • That’s a good strategy. My hydrangea actually turned out better the year I just whacked off (deadheaded) all the old flowers than when I had carefully tried to follow my notes from class on pruning.

  2. Reblogged this on and commented:

    Four years ago to the day I wrote the post…Yesterday as I was leaving after a visit with my parents, my mom handed me a newspaper article on how to prune blueberries. She knows I struggle…Today is still cold and foggy. The blueberries and hydrangea await. Probably not today.

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