One of my favorite tasks each year is the first pruning of the season. It's relatively easy and helps give the garden a little tidy-up. Ideally, this should be done in late winter while the plant is still dormant (February or March), so that all of that prolific spring energy can be used effectively when it awakens. If you're eager to get back out into the garden, here are some guidelines for what to prune (and more importantly, what not to prune) as well as a short series of video tutorials on how and where to prune to help get you started.
Plants to Prune in Late-Winter
Late-spring and summer-blooming trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and vines
hydrangea paniculata (e.g., "Lime Light", "Bobo", "Phantom")
hydrangea arborescens (e.g., "Annabelle")
ornamental grasses (except for nassella aka mexican feather grass which should be combed out)
late summer and autumn-blooming clematis
evergreens (e.g., boxwood, laurel, yew, and holly)
NOTE: Be mindful that some birds may have started nesting (especially later in March), so check your plants before you begin to prune.
Plants NOT to Prune in Late-Winter
Most early- and mid-spring blooming trees, shrubs and vines
hydrangea macrophylla (i.e., the traditional blue or pink-flowering ones)
early-blooming clematis (e.g., montana varieties)
NOTE: Pruning these plantings in late winter will result in significantly less or possibly no flowers later in the season.
VIDEO 1: An Intro to Pruning Hydrangea
VIDEO 2: How and Where to Prune
VIDEO 3: The Finished Shrub