I never really believed that plants could hear what you were saying, although I sometimes whisper “Oh, you are so beautiful,” to my hibiscus, and it continues to flower, and has done for months. This morning, though, I think the Tibouchina must have heard Cher saying, “That plant needs pruning,” (which it does) because it has bloomed ever since, sometimes with as many as four flowers at once, and the blooms come on the outermost tips of branches. So, if I pruned it there would be no more flowers, at least no flowers for ages.
I think it must hate the whole idea, and who can blame it? None of us want to lose a finger, a toe, or an ear, so it may feel the same. Mind you, Annie must walk around with her clippers in her hand, and the results of her pruning are amazing, so, obviously some things thrive when pruned, and others bleed until you fear for their lives. Timing is the most important thing (i.e., grapes need to be pruned in January, and no later than early February).
Annie also thins fruit. A cluster of three (say) apples, she reduces to either two or even one, which means fewer, but larger apples.
Many fruit trees will self prune. The first year we had the Italian prune tree I was in despair as it shed dozens of small green prunes. Then I discovered that this phenomenon actually has a name — the June drop. That’s when a tree sheds fruit it knows it hasn’t the capacity to ripen. Nature is so clever, isn’t it? Mind you, some assistance certainly helps, and Annie knows what she is doing.
As for the Tibouchina I’ll prune it when it stops blooming. It has pretty well taken over the bedroom with its wand-like branches wafting about in the slightest breeze, and I swear it chuckles when it is able to reach out and tangle my hair.
Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 25 years.