February is… Pruning Season?
“Oh, I saw a Robin this morning. Spring must be just about here!”
Did I just say that?
No, it is an “old wives tale,” or a commonly believed myth that Robins fly south for the winter and then return for the spring. It simply is not true yet most people choose to believe it. I walk in the woods every day with my dog, Mitchell. In the stillness of the woods, we listen and hear the Robins melodious, lyrical songs. These lovely red breasted birds are still here but you have to be aware of them and listen for them. You will hear them and see them but you have to be where they are. If you stay inside the house, you’ll miss them.
Robins are resident birds in western Pennsylvania. I see them all winter long. It is true that some Robins do head south, but certainly not most of them. When the snow melts down to expose the ground, you will find the Robins feeding. I live beside a winding creek and the Robins stay right here where they have shelter in the woods, fresh water to drink, and food in abundance on the floor of the meadows and woods. Yes, I know, there are always those announcements in the local newspaper that some man or woman has reported that the Robins have returned because they saw one. Chances are that person was not out walking in the snow and woods on winter days; therefore never heard the Robin music floating in the breeze.
By mid-February, we begin to have thoughts of spring. By now, we have had quite a bit of snow, zero temperatures, blustery winds, hours of shoveling snow, and we might begin to have “cabin fever.” I concentrate during winter months on doing activities such as knitting, or beadwork, or listening to books which I get from the National Library of Congress program for blind and handicapped people. It’s a cozy time of year, if you think about it. While the winter winds sweep the landscape, I am in my special place where it is warm and comfortable. What do you do on such winter days?
Personally, Bob and I have been traveling through a pruning season in our life. The past year has been a season of cutting out the frivolous and inessential things from life because Bob was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Every day is a battle as we work together to meet challenges that seem to face the cutting edge of the gardener’s pruning knife. We begin to feel like God has been pruning us in so many ways. God is like a loving gardener who knows the trees and shrubs will be stronger, flourish better and bloom profusely after the pruning time. But, oh, the pain of it! The bleeding, the rearranging of the tender leaves on the vines.
Another famous myth is that Groundhogs are associated with the forecasting or arrival of spring here in western Pennsylvania. I know you have heard of “Punxsutawney Phil,” the world famous groundhog who comes out to greet the thousands of fans on February 2. He has done this for the past 129 years. Phil’s handlers carry him out of his burrow at 7:28 am, where he “sees his shadow” or not. Phil’s predictions depend on sightings of his shadow. The town of Punxsutawney, PA has made this location a favorite tourist attraction on a frigid mid-winter day. Visitors come from all over the world every year on Groundhog Day. The President of the Groundhog Day Organization holds Phil up in the air for all to see. Phil’s prediction this year, because he did see his shadow, was that there will be 6 more weeks of winter. Well, all we have to do is look at the calendar and we will see that for you!
You can read more about Phil by visiting this link:
One of the things I have been thinking about is how Nature prunes the vegetation outside, much like God prunes us because he loves us and wants us to flourish. There are a number of examples in the ancient texts of the Bible that indicate God prunes his beloved children.
John 15:2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”
I was astonished today when I learned that the Greek word for pruning means to clean. And, now I can see that a vine must have branches cleaned from it so that it will flourish. I said, “Ah, yes, we are being cleaned! God, himself, is cleaning us right now as we walk in the season of deep, uncomfortable, late winter.”
Are you aware that February is a time of pruning?
Many trees and shrubs need to be pruned during February for the best results. Pruning is when the vegetation is cut back so that the plant can become sturdier during the forthcoming growth season of spring and summer.
Right now, the temperature is hovering around zero, and snow covers the ground. It’s hard to imagine that anything is actually happening in this frigid weather, beneath the ground, or in the bare branches that would induce growth. But it is! Life is surging under frozen ground, and gaining strength from the water that is melting down through the snow. Those bare skeleton branches are hiding secrets that will explode in a few weeks into buds that will become leaves.
According to Richard Jauron, Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University, mid-February is the best time to begin pruning a number of trees and shrubs. The plants will be healthy and productive if you know when to do the job. That would be mid-February!
I am delighted each spring when the Lilac and Forsythia bloom!
Lilac and forsythia are deciduous shrubs. My lilac shrub was growing very tall and willowy – getting away from me and I realized last summer it needed to be pruned. The plant grew so fast that the flowers were so high in the air that it pulled the branches downwards. Lilac is my favorite spring flowering shrub and I wait through the harsh winter for the first signs of growth on my plant.
Our Forsythia shrub is old and overgrown. This year, it will be pruned back extensively to give it a chance to be renewed and rejuvenated. This shrub was planted in our yard over forty years ago. If you take care of your shrubs and trees you can enjoy them for a lifetime.
For additional information about pruning in mid-February, visit this link: