Prune azaleas and rhododendrons. These shrubs gave us quite a wonderful show all through May. As the flowers fade, take a look at the shrubs to see if any pruning is needed. This is the time to do it before next year's flower buds form. You'll need to prune any dead, diseased, damaged or crossing branches. Be sure to maintain the overall shape of each plant. And if you don't see anything that needs pruning, consider yourself lucky and move on to another garden task.
Count the number of clematis petals. Although I'd often heard that you could get clematis to bloom more vigorously by pruning the vines, figuring out the best time to do it always confused me. That is, until a year ago, when I learned the secret. Clematis can be divided into two categories - eight petals (or, technically, sepals) and six-or-less petals. The eight-petal varieties bloom in early spring on last year's vines and should be pruned after blooming is finished. The 6-or-less petal types bloom in summer on new wood, and you should prune these vines in late winter. So count those petals when your clematis is flowering. Even if you miss the best pruning time this year, you'll never be confused again.
Patricia Schrieber is director of education
for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) ( www.phsonline.org),
and co-owner of Valentine Gardens ( www.valentine-gardens.com).