The very thought of pruning causes anxiety attacks for some gardeners. It’s really simple, though. Just cut off what you don’t want. The cutting is not the hardest part, however. What is really important is to know why you are pruning and what the result of each cut will be. Keep this in mind, “Think before you cut.” Or to paraphrase the carpenter’s rule, “Think twice and cut once.”
There are many good reasons for pruning, including removing damaged branches or diseased areas, and branches that cross over each other and rub together causing wounds. Pruning to direct growth is appropriate.
A really bad reason is pruning to reduce or control the size of a plant.
It is also important to keep in mind what sort of growth will result from the cuts you make. If you are cutting back branches of a shrub that are sticking out so far that the Avon lady can’t get to your front door, you need to realize that vigorous new growth will sprout out of whatever part of a branch you leave. You probably need to cut that branch all the way back to a trunk or major branch it comes from to prevent a new bush once again blocking the path.
Unless you are creating a topiary or a hedge, you should avoid simply shearing off a few inches every once in awhile. The new growth will create a dense wall of foliage which spoils the natural grace and beauty of the plant. If the problem is a plant that has grown too large for the space, consider removing it and planting something smaller rather than constantly cuttin
g off its new growth.
Choose the right tools for the job, and be sure they are clean and sharp. For small twigs and branches, a bypass pruner on which the sharp blades pass by each other like scissors is preferable to an anvil pruner on which one sharp blade mashes the material against a solid base. For larger and woodier cuts, a pruning saw is essential.
For an in-depth look at pruning techniques, how and why and when, join Vernon Esplin of Buena Vista Arbor Care at Connie Hansen Garden from 10:00 AM to noon on Saturday, September 13th for a pruning workshop. Bring your questions and join in to learn more about pruning.