Pruning are?? Subject/verb agreement lacking

The "Ask a Landscaper" column in a recent issue of The Birmingham News contains a carelessly worded sentence:

Pruning off these buds are in essence pruning of the flowers before they bloom.

 The columnist is answering a reader's question about when to prune azaleas. First, the word PRUNING is a gerund (a verb turned into a noun by adding ING). It is the subject of the sentence and is a single function, so it is considered singular.  Therefore, the verb should be IS instead of ARE. Second, the columnist uses the phrase PRUNING OFF in reference to the BUDS, so it makes sense that he meant to use the same phrase PRUNING OFF in reference to the FLOWERS.  The sentence should read this way:

Pruning off these buds is in essence pruning off the flowers before they bloom.

I love gardening, and if you do, too, you are probably getting antsy about planting for the coming spring. I hope your azaleas and other plants are gorgeous this year.

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