In this blog post, we’ll explore the basics of tree pruning, including the different types of cuts, when to prune, and the tools you’ll need to get the job done. We’ll also discuss the benefits of pruning and how it can enhance the beauty of your garden and improve the safety of your property. So, whether you want to improve the look of your tree or make your garden a safer place, learning to prune your trees is a necessary skill.
What is Pruning?
Pruning can be defined as the removal of any part of a plant to encourage it to grow, On the other hand, formally clipped hedges flower and fruit in the way the gardener or topiary work involves not only firm early wants. The degree of pruning will vary greatly through training but careful and timely pruning from the removal of a large tree limb to death- is to be kept in a well-tailored condition. heading roses or pinching back growth on young pot plants, such as fuchsias, to make them branch. Even the cutting down of old growth on herbaceous plants in autumn or winter is a form of pruning.
Why prune at all wild plants are not pruned and they grow and flower perfectly well. This is a question often asked, but in fact, Nature has her own method of pruning. Small branches are shed naturally, and twigs, leaves, and flowers die and fall off. All plants are slowly but continuously undergoing a process of renewal in nature, so by pruning, we are, in part, accelerating a normal process. Many plants will thrive with limited pruning and it is almost always better not to prune at all than to resort to the “slasher” or “haircut” techniques. These involve the merciless chopping down of all new growth annually to keep the plants “tidy” or because the plant concerned has grown too large for its position in the garden and needs to be controlled. Hard pruning is sometimes necessary for specific reasons, but should never be needed merely to keep plants tidy or under control.
What Are The Basic Aims And Principles of Tree Pruning?
When we train and prune plants the main purpose is to obtain the maximum decorative effect or the optimum crop possible. At the same time, it is important to maintain an attractive shape and appearance, with a balance between growth, flowering, and fruiting, while keeping the plant vigorous and in good health. Many trees and shrubs do not need rigorous annual pruning to fulfill these aims and after their initial training may need no more than minor “cosmetic pruning”; which is a gentle control of nature involving the removal of spent flowers and cutting out of thin, weak or crossing shoots to maintain an overall balanced shape. Before beginning to prune any plant it is vital to know a few facts about its growth and flowering habit. A simple examination will show that most woody plants have at the end of each shoot a terminal or apical bud. Below it on the stem lateral or axillary buds are arranged in a characteristic pattern that varies with the species concerned. They may be alternate, opposite, whorled, or arranged spirally and their position will determine where the future branches will form.
The terminal bud exerts what is known as apical dominance over lateral buds, that is it grows more rapidly and can assert its dominance by producing a chemical that inhibits the growth of lateral buds. If the terminal bud is cut away or broken off the lateral buds or shoots below will grow rapidly. So what we are doing when we pinch out the soft tip of a young fuchsia or prune back a woody shoot on a shrub is breaking this apical dominance by removing the source of the inhibitor. This process is known to gardeners as “stopping” and the lateral shoots which develop as a result of stopping are said to be “breaking” This fact is basic to all pruning. The degree of apical dominance varies from species to species and sometimes seasonally within a species, each of which has a characteristic growth cycle. Generally, trees, particularly in the first few years of growth, exhibit strong apical dominance, while shrubs that are intricately branched show it much less.
In plants such as Syringa vulgaris, the common lilac, which have opposite pairs of buds, the dominance is shared by the uppermost pair, which will usually grow at approximately the same rate and produce a typically forked pattern of growth. Sometimes one of the pair will gain dominance over the other and the growth becomes one-sided as can frequently be seen with Deutzia. When pruning any Tree it is important to cut back to a selected bud which will produce a shoot in the required direction, If the cut is above a bud facing outwards the bud will break to produce a shoot that grows away from the center of the plant. The terminal bud of this shoot then asserts itself and controls the lateral growth below.
Similarly, when it is necessary to restrict the growth of a tree or shrub it is important to thin out the shoots or branches, removing some completely and if needed, shortening each of those remaining back to an appropriately placed bud or main shoot. The importance of correctly positioning pruning cuts is emphasized throughout this book. Čuts should always be made just above a healthy bud and sloping away from it so that the resulting shoots will grow in the direction required. Bad cuts will frequently contribute to the die-back of the shoot and the selected growth bud.
There are no visible growth buds on the woody branches of trees and shrubs although dormant or adventitious buds are normally present underlying the bark, If dead wood or weak branches need to be removed the position of the cut must be chosen carefully. The cut should be close to a healthy branch so that the minimum surface of the wound is ey posed without leaving a snag of wood where the disease might enter. The use of wound paints on pruning cuts and other wounds is not now recommended except where silver leaf and coral spots are known to be troublesome.
Early Training And Pruning For The Tree:
The majority of trees and shrubs benefit from a certain amount of early training, although some will develop naturally into well-shaped specimens with only gentle guidance and the removal of a few surplus poorly placed shoots. Others need much firmer control particularly if they are to be grown formally and trained against a wall or fence. It is very important, therefore, to make certain that the training given is timely and correct, even if it only amounts to the removal of one or two weak shoots. Allowing a double leader to develop on a tree at this stage or an awkwardly placed branch to grow can cause problems later.
There is always a natural reluctance to cut back vigorous growths on young plants even when they are obviously in the wrong position, but sometimes this must be done if the basic balanced framework that will support the plant all its life is to be formed correctly. Trees, unless they are pollarded, and many large shrubs and evergreens will retain this main framework throughout their lives and it is vital that it is strong and that the branches are fairly regularly spaced so that it is mechanically sound with the weight of the smaller branches evenly distributed over the framework as a whole. such as Deutzia, black currants, and some With shrubs that undergo periodic renewal pruning the framework is not permanent but is still important to build up an evenly balanced, well-shaped plant. Shrubs roses all depend on a regular supply of vigorous basal or near-basal shoots to replace worn-out growths.
Pruning To Maintain A Healthy Tree:
Plants are most susceptible to diseases and pests when they are in poor condition. It is essential to make sure that adequate food and water are available so that healthy vigorous growth is produced regularly. This particularly applies to plants that are hard pruned annually as it is little use cutting their growth back severely if they are short of food and water to produce new shoots. Feeding and watering, therefore, are directly relevant to pruning. It is important also to remove and burn all dead, damaged and diseased shoots or wood the “3 D’s”- as soon as it is seen. In all cases, the shoots or branches concerned should be cut back cleanly into healthy wood, where possible to a growth bud (or pair of buds) which will provide replacement shoots in due course. Dead or damaged growths always offer a point of entry for diseases and it is important to protect the plant from infection by cutting these out to prevent any further deterioration. Pruning to maintain health also extends to the removal of all crossing, immature, thin, and weak shoots which frequently develop in the center of unpruned trees and shrubs due to the lack of light and air. This eliminates possible disease reservoirs and allows vigorous shoots to develop unhindered and produce healthy foliage and fine flower trusses.
Maintaining The Shape or Habit:
A number of trees and shrubs are best allowed to develop unchecked after their initial training apart from cosmetic pruning and the removal of dead, damaged, or diseased growth. Occasion ally vigorous, awkwardly placed shoots will upset the balanced symmetry of a mature tree or shrub and such shoots should be cut out completely. With many shrubs, and less frequently with small trees, one section may be more vigorous than the remainder so that the plant is asymmetrical. When this occurs remember the principle that the strong shoots should be lightly pruned while the weak shoots require hard pruning. The reason is that hard pruning stimulates vigorous growth, so pruning back strong growths will simply encourage more vigorous shoots to be produced which accentuates the uneven shape further. The maxim “weak growth, hard prune; strong growth, light prune” should always be borne in mind when remedial pruning of this kind is needed.
Decorative Effect or Optimum Crops:
To do this it is essential to know the growth flowering and fruiting characteristics of the tree to be pruned as this will govern the technique needed to obtain the maximum decorative effect or the optimum cropping capacity.
The gardener needs to know whether the tree flowers on the current year’s growth, such as Buddleja davidii, or whether it produces blooms from shoots one or more years old, such as B. alternifolia. It would be no use pruning the latter species hard each spring as all the one-year-old flowering shoots for the season would be removed. With red currants, the fruit is borne on short spurs from a permanent framework of old wood. Black currants, however, are fruit from one-year-old shoots, and a renewal system of pruning is needed. Some plants may be pruned in two ways to provide different garden effects. An example is that of the purple-leaved forms of the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria), which is usually grown as a large shrub bearing attractive foliage and flowers and requiring only minor cosmetic pruning. Alternatively, the growths can be cut hard back each spring to provide handsome, large foliage on the current season’s growth but no flower.
Knowledge of growth characteristics will help to determine when pruning should be carried out, but as a general rule, the best time of year to prune is that which allows the maximum growing period to produce either flowering shoots or growth which will flower the following season.
Introduction To Best Pruning Tools For The Tree:
The basic tools gardeners will need for pruning the tree are a good pair of secateurs, hand or power shears for hedge-cutting, and if heavier work is necessary a pair of long-handled pruners and a pruning saw. Pruning knives (a) usually with a slightly curved blade and handle (b), are available but they are not easy to use without considerable practice. Inexpert use of pruning knives often results in ragged cuts and secateurs are generally easier to use.
Three main kinds of secateurs are available but a number of variations on these themes are marketed. One has a straight-edged blade that cuts down onto a bar of softer metal (C); the second has a convexly curved blade that cuts against, but not directly onto, a fixed bar (d): the third has two convexly curved blades which cut in a scissor-like fashion (e). All these, if used correctly, can give excellent results. Always position the stem to be cut close to the base of the blade where it can be held firmly. If the cut is made with the tip, the blades are liable to be strained or forced apart. Long-handled pruners are basically strong secateurs with long handles which give extra leverage when cutting fairly thick stems and branches (f. They are extremely useful for dealing with old stems on such vigorous shrubs as Philadelphus and for cutting out the old stumps which gradually build up at the base of bush roses. They are also known as”loppers” or occasionally as “parrots. Pruning saws will be required for cutting larger branches. Several designs are available that are especially suitable for use in small spaces and narrow angles between branches. The English pruning saw has a tapering blade with teeth on both sides, one set producing a smoother finished cut than the other (g). Care has to be taken not to damage nearby branches with the set of teeth, not in use, and for this reason, some gardeners prefer a tapered version of the normal carpenter’s saw, The Grecian saw, which has a curved blade tapered to a sharp point and sloping teeth designed to cut on the return stroke, is also very useful in confined spaces (h).
Hand shears are available in several designs (i). Whichever make is chosen it should be well-balanced, light, and comfortable with an efficient, sharp cutting edge In all cases, it is important to use good quality tools and to keep them in good condition. This means cleaning and oiling them after use to keep them free of rust and making sure they are sharp before use. Never attempt to cut through wood that is too large for the tool. This will only strain it and make it less effective. Twisting the tool while cutting through a branch will also strain it and cause a ragged cut.
Different Types of Cuts:
When pruning a tree, there are four different types of cuts that can be made:
- Removal cut – a large cut used to remove a branch, but it should not be flush with the trunk.
- Reduction cut – used to reduce the size of a branch.
- Heading cut – cuts made on the tips of branches to promote bushier growth.
- Dead branch removal – used to remove branches that have died.
When removing branches from a tree, there are three different situations that may arise.
1. If there is a visible collar, make the cut at the edge of the collar (as shown in the fig-1 illustration).
2. If there is no visible collar, make the cut where the top of the branch abruptly turns towards the trunk, and cut outside an imaginary line parallel to the trunk (as shown in the Fig-2 illustration).
3. If there is included bark at the union between the branch and trunk, make the final pruning cut at the base of this connection (as shown in Fig-3 in the lower illustration)
It is important to note that there is no need to apply any paints, wound dressings, or chemical treatments to the surface of the cut as these do not prevent decay. Only proper pruning techniques can help prevent decay. They might protect the cut from fungal infections such as canker or reduce the chances of Oak wilt.
Pruning is an important practice for maintaining the health, beauty, and safety of your tree. It can be done for different purposes and different types of plants but the ultimate goal is to have a healthy and well-maintained tree.