Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Cut Above The Rest

This coming week I am doing a lecture on pruning. We actually get a lot of questions pertaining to pruning at the Master Gardener office. It is often one of the most misunderstood concepts to gardening. I prepared a handout for my lecture and thought I would share it with you.

What, When and How To Do It

The definition of a garden could very well be:
“A Place That Has Been Pruned For The Benefit Of Both Plants And Persons”
The history of pruning is as old as the history of civilized man. From Ancient China to the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson used pruning to create formal hedges around their respective estates.

Benefits of Pruning:
Pruning directs growth. You can bring a lopsided tree into balance, so the uneven weight will not break branches.
Controls the Microclimates. Allows air, and sunlight into the center of a shrub or tree. This will improve the health as the air circulates and sun penetrates to help prevent disease. Pruning out dead and possibly diseased branches can keep the infection from spreading.
Helps insure healthy transplants. Reducing the number of leaves helps the plant compensate for root loss during transplant.
Can rejuvenate an old, sparse tree.

When to Prune:
To answer this question, you need to know:
1)When the plant flowers
2)On which kind of growth it flowers (i.e. Current season, previous year or older wood)
Basic rules of thumb are:
1)If it flowers in the Spring, prune after flowering (Forsythia)
2)If it flowers on the new growth, Prune in Spring before they bloom (Butterfly Bush)
Other reasons to prune: Crossing branches, dead wood, diseased wood, to control height, control width.

Some Specific Examples:
Camellias: Anytime tolerated, but major work should be done in Spring.
Hydrangea: Late Spring after flowering
Nandina: Anytime, best before Spring growth
Ligustrum: Major cutting in Spring, maintenance pruning anytime
Ilex (Hollies): Anytime
Azaleas: Tip pinched after flowering. Older azaleas that need rejuvenation, cut back oldest branches to within a foot of the ground. Then do the same thing over the next two years. Never cut more than one third of the plant each year.
Roses: General rule....Cutting off old wood regularly produces new wood. The energy that would have been used in keeping the old wood alive, goes instead into new growth and flowers.
Some roses bloom on current seasons wood, others on last seasons wood.
The first group should have all three year old wood removed, do this when dormant.
The second group should be pruned after flowering.
This is a very general approach to what, when and how you should prune. If you want or need to know about something more specific, please touch base with me. I will be more than happy to assist you.
Happy Growing!

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