Hear Say: Public radio program features pruning guru Jim Orband and free gardening show tickets

Listen to Cathy Lewis Hear Say gardening program with retired York County extension agent Jim Orband noon-1 p.m. Wednesdsay, Jan. 23 on WHRV-FM 89..5,, and win tickets to several gardening events, including:

  • Virginia Flower & Garden Expo, Jan. 25-27 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
  • Home Gardener Day Feb. 7 at the Marriott, City Center, Newport News.
  • Hampton Roads Home & Garden Show Feb. 8-10 at Hampton Roads Convention Center, Hampton, starring Mike Wolfe of the TV show "American Pickers," Dr. Lori the antiques appraiser and a three-day Green Thumb Theater starring Landscapes in Miniature at noon each day.

Pruning time


January and February are ideal pruning times in the yard, and Jim will gladly answer your pruning and other gardening questions. Call 757-440-2665 or 1-800-940-2240; email

Pruning tips


Here are pruning tips from Jim, who maintains a no-fuss mondo grass groundcover as a front lawn. He cuts the mondo grass back the Monday in May, otherwise it needs no care.

Pruning is good for a plant – but only if you do it properly.

"Know the characteristics of the plants you intend to prune," says retired York extension agent Jim Orband.

"Are they broad-leaved or needled plants? Are they a spring or summer bloomer?


"A general rule of thumb is to prune a plant directly after its blooms. When a plant is a rebloomer as in azaleas or lilacs, or a continuous bloomer as in roses, pruning after a flush of blooms stimulates the plant to continue its blooming habit."

Jim elaborates on these points during his program "Pruning Properly for Good Health" at 11 a.m. Feb. 9. He appears on the Green Thumb Theater stage during the Hampton Roads Home & Garden Show Feb. 8-10 at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton. The show also features Mike Wolfe of the TV show " American Pickers" and antiques appraiser Dr. Lori;

Pruning is not about topping a tree, stubbing back a crape myrtle or shearing an evergreen, Jim stresses.  Healthy pruning allows a plant to pursue its natural growth habit.

To keep your plants healthy, use Jim's pruning tips:

  • Make sure your tools are clean to avoid spreading disease and that they are sharp to avoid crushing plant material.
  • Cut ¼ inch above the bud and parallel to the bud at a 45-degree angle.
  • Leave the branch collar (point where a branch joins the trunk or  branch) when making a pruning cut.
  • Do not use pruning paint; air best heals a wound.
  • Remove rubbing and crossing branches.
  • Remove co-dominant leaders, or where a tree has more than one single main stem.
  • Remove dead, diseased, damaged and dangerous branches.
  • Remove water sprouts, which are shoots that come up from the trunk or branches.
  • Remove branches that are crossing back through the center of the tree.

All about mondo grass

During his Feb. 9 talk, Jim also shares how to cut ground covers so they flourish. In his Yorktown yard, Jim grows mondo grass as a front yard lawn.

"Mondo grass can make a wonderful, low traffic, sustainable ground cover in your landscape," he says.

To establish mondo, which spreads by underground rhizomes, start with plants placed every 6 to 8 inches apart in soil amended with 2 inches of organic matter worked into the top 6 inches of soil. Periodic weeding is needed until the plants form a thick covering within three years. Once mondo is established, it needs no fertilizer, no pesticides or herbicides, no water or no mulching.


Jim cuts the top 4-6 inches of the mondo May 10-20, allowing it to send up new green foliage for a fresh seasonal look.

Pruning clinics. Attend one of these York County extension-sponsored pruning clinics, which are free and open to residents living anywhere: 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 2 at Grafton True Value Hardware or 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 23 at Ken Matthews Garden Center,  both on Route 17, or 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 16 at Taylor's Do-It-Best Hardware in Poquoson; call 890-4940 for details.