Dear Grumpy,

We recently purchased a house with what once was lovely landscaping. It's been essentially neglected for at least 10 years. One bright spot is a wall of gardenia bushes along a french pattern travertine, but they are MASSIVE- and completely overgrown. When can I prune them back? If I do it now, will it affect the blooms next year? How aggressive can I be when I do prune them?

Thanks! Lost in my new garden....


Dear Hilary,

You may be lost now, my child, but Grumpy shall lead you from the wilderness.

The fact that your gardenias are way overgrown makes the question of whether you should prune them a moot point. You have to prune them. Cut them back as far as you need to after all the trees have dropped their leaves this fall.

Will this affect flowering next spring and summer? Yes. Some gardenias, such as 'Mystery' (an older selection), bloom on growth made the previous year. Pruning in fall will remove flower buds and greatly reduce flowering next year. Other types, including 'August Beauty,' 'Kimura Shikazaki,' and 'Miami Supreme,' bloom on both previous year's growth and new growth. This means that fall pruning will reduce the spring bloom, but new spring growth will produce flowers in summer.