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This strategy will suffice for a time in most cases. After many years of this type of treat- ment, however, the shrubs will go into a decline. If the "technician" is heavy-handed, the bushes will begin to appear skeletonized, with just a thin transparent foliar layer reveal- ing bare twigs underneath. New growth will start to look withered. Additionally, in their weakened state, the cultivars are subject to attack by disease and insects. For the average homeowner there is a better way. A pair of quality hedge shears is enough to maintain those hedges on a landscape of average size. Cutting with blades that have been honed sharp by a couple of swipes with a file will leave clean cuts that will energize a plant and promote a healthy compact habit of regrowth. My pair of shears includes a small slotted prun- ing notch at the base of the blades, so I can cut slightly larger sprouts. The long handles enable me — or any other user — to reach all areas of any hedge of normal proportion to a human, and the shears afford good leverage. The company that makes my shears and many other professional-grade garden implements is located in California and is easy to access on the Internet. It also supplies spare parts when I need them. While I replace my shears every few years because of the volume of work I do, one pair should last the average homeowner a lifetime. PLANT OF THE MONTH Many people buy or receive poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherimma) to decorate their homes and gardens during the holidays. The plants' bracts come in a multitude of solid and polychromatic combinations. Generally, as poinsettias lose their fresh appearance, they are discarded. Years ago, many gardeners kept, planted and cultivated them in select special locations in the landscape. If you would like to give them a try, poin- settias should be introduced gradually to exterior light in March and then eventually planted in sunny locations. The sites should be free of artificial light at night, since the plants' blooming is dependent upon autumn's diminishing light. They may be pruned during the growing season if they get leggy. With a modicum of water- ing, fertilization and vigilance against pests (especially hornworms), they will prosper and provide joy during successive seasons of cheer. Rick Wielgorecki may be contacted at 362- 0600 or % Someone you know needs Planned Parenthood • Lifesaving cancer screenings • Parent & teen education • Annual GYN exams • Birth control Planned Parenthood Of Southwest And Central Florida • Sarasota 941-953-4060 • Sarasota News Leader January 31, 2014 Page 92

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