Plant Amnesty: the crazy plant people of Seattle have banded together – to teach


by Susan
Here’s how it happened.  I asked for good regional websites and you recommended Plant Amnesty in the SeattleCasshead350
area.  Turns out it’s way more than a website – it’s a whole damn movement, so naturally I got caught up in it. (Hey, gang, let’s have a march on Washington – you can all crash at my place!)

It’s the brain child of a very cool missionary for better pruning named Cass Turnbull.  She’s listed on that link as "Our Founder" but it takes more than organizational skills to start a group with this mission: "TChicken_on_a_sticko end the senseless torture & mutilation of trees & shrubs."  (What else does it take?  A big, crazy personality, I’m guessing.)

But just like any normal nonprofit, Plant Amnesty has actual staff, officers, and a quarterly newsletter. Upon joining, they’ll start calling you a Photosynthesizer Sympathesizer (as in "Welcome, you’re a…!") and you’ll have access to the members-only info on their website.  Members who are local to Seattle can also attend their workshops and use their Dr_scholls_foot_padsreferral service to find landscape professionals who’ve passed the Plant Amnesty test about horticulture and pruning.  Currently there are over 900 members in 46 states. 

Located as I am on the opposite coast from Cass and her gang, my favorite thing about joining was receiving Cass’s DVD "Six Solutions to the Overgrown Yard," aka "Pruning Horrors and the Pruning Micro-Course." I watched all 111 minutes of it because she’s a hoot, and a damn good teacher.  Sure, the video includes those little drawings that demonstrate correct pruning practices but the fun part is Cass’s photo collection of the worst abuses in prunReturn_to_mother_shiping, some of which you see here. 

I managed to catch Cass indoors long enough to ask about her certification and referral program for landscape professionals.  Anyone questioning the need for it might be surprised by her sober assessment that "80 percent of the people in the business of gardening don’t know what they’re talking about."  Ooh, that’s bad.  And Seattle homeowners have a way to find the other 20 percent but what about everywhere else?


  1. Oh no, I learn about these people the very spring when I’ve decided to get over my fear of pruning!

    P.S. I LOVE the Dr. Scholl’s Footpad yard. You tend not to see that kind of thing in the Northeast. Anyway, if I was going to live in a house as expressionless as that, I too would have all kinds of weird topiary just to keep myself awake.

  2. Garden Renegade has a must see pruned shrubbery…very Freudian.

    I would like to see Plant Amnesty here to stop all the Crape Murder…making that beautiful shrub a giant lollipop!

    Thanks for the smile this morning.

    clay and limestone

  3. Garden Renegade has a must see pruned shrubbery…very Freudian.

    I would like to see Plant Amnesty here to stop all the Crape Murder…making that beautiful shrub a giant lollipop!

    Thanks for the smile this morning.

    clay and limestone

  4. I’ve known about the marvelous Cass Turnbull and Plant Amnesty for ages and I’m glad to see both get recognition here. Ask my husband and he’ll tell you how often I’ll harumph and say “Some people shouldn’t be allowed near pruners,” as we drive around. Right now I’m seeing lots of trees that make me think the Queen of Hearts is alive and well (“Off with their heads!”). Apparently, I’m a Photosynthesizer Sympathesizer at heart. It’s time to find out more about membership so I can honestly earn the title.

    Her book “Cass Turnbull’s Guide to Pruning” is great, too.

    Michele, don’t fear pruning. There really are fairly simple guidelines to follow. If it’s really daunting, try what I did. I hired a pro (an arborist and pruning lecturer) to come to my garden and give me a hands-on lesson. Best money I ever spent on pruning!

  5. Wonderful to see you do a post on Plant Amnesty. When we first got to Seattle we were baffled by PA. Now I’m seriously considering leaving her DVD strategically placed in the hedges of some of my neighbors who believe nature, pets, and children should be allowed to run amock.

  6. Darn, I love all three of those pruning examples. I totally would do that if I had the space.

    Especially if I had a cool ranch like the Dr. Scholls house.

  7. Cass Turnball’s book “Guide to Pruning” is my bible. I saw her talk this year at New England Grows and she was hysterical! sadly, most people here do not know how to prune.

  8. Plant Relativist Talk:

    Just because someone prunes their shrubs in a way that is currently somewhat “out of style” doesn’t mean they “don’t know how to prune”.

    Actually, I wouldn’t even say that stuff is out of style. Mid-century gardening is pretty hot right now.

  9. I like some of the more extreme Japanese style pruning. Love the Dr. Scholls. It’s not like it hurts anyone!

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