"Prunettes" are what I would have named this team of DC-area lady pruners, who actually go by the name Yankee Clippers. Yankees in D.C.? Well, I guess that's because president Elizabeth Doyle started the company in New York way back in 1994. Here's Elizabeth with one of her crew hard at work in an extremely overgrown garden. (Growth happens!) After leaving the business world, she taught herself the art of pruning and decided to create a female-friendly company, with work hours ending at 2 every afternoon so moms could be home for their kids after school. Now she employs about 35 women, who work on their own loosey-goosey schedules as needed, but descend en masse in groups of 6-10 to transform the shrubs and small trees of the many Yankee Clipper clients.
Wanna be a Yankee Clipper? Well, you don't even have to be a gardener. In fact, the less you know, the better, because Elizabeth has her own style and likes to train with a clean slate.
And what IS the Yankee Clipper style? Leave the garden looking good, with even the cuts cleverly hidden. (There's a technique for this; who knew?) This is art, not plant butchery. And prune for health. That means NO SHEARING. Learn how each plant grows so you can work with it, not against it.
For more information I consulted the hand-out given by Mary Ellen Fernandez, pictured here practically hidden by the killer rose she's tackling, at a recent garden club talk. And student of pruning that I am, I read it carefully and hyper-critically and to my amazement, agree with everything except the advice to prune spireas like forsythias - at the base. Readers may remember this is my favorite shrub for sun and I have oodles of them, none of which have ever been hacked back so brutally, a treatment I'd bet my Felcos would kill the poor things. But these ladies have probably pruned even more of them than I have so - drumroll - maybe I'm mistaken! See how open-minded I can be? As a last resort, of course.
And something else I learned from Mary Ellen is that even arthritic hands like her own can prune five hours a day if the pruning tool is a ratchet-type. No Felcos! I know; another shocker. She swears by her Florian Ratchet-cut Pruner and on her recommendation I'll even provide the link.
But here's what I don't get. How can these ladies, with no Olympic pentathletes or spring chickens in the bunch, do this really hard work for FIVE STRAIGHT HOURS? Good Lord, I'd seriously considered applying for employment myself, thinking I know my pruning and I'm a hard worker, too. But honestly, my version of hard physical labor begins when the sun comes up and ends about an hour later, especially in our summers. Anyway, I'd have to unlearn everything I know, or think I know.
So I won't be joining these fine ladies in their mission to save and beautify the shrubs of the D.C. area after all. Taking photos and chatting with the homeowner? No problem, even in the heat.
The Yankee Clippers can be reached by email.