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Pruning trees and shrubs, why prune and when

Schedule for shrub and tree pruning

Sometimes, it’s better not to prune than to prune wrong. Before going crazy with your hand pruner in the garden, learn why to prune and the do’s and don’ts of pruning.

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What is pruning for?

It has several goals: guide the growth of the shrub or tree, give it a harmonious bearing or shape, stimulating the blooming and removing diseased or dead branches. It must also bring light to the heart of the plant “like a bowl” to increase exposure to sun and reduce stagnating air that makes the plant prone to diseases. Lastly, it has the goal of removing weak branches that would not hold under the weight of snow.

When to prune

Pruned grapevine with a drop of sap oozing outIt all depends on the blooming. If flowers appear in spring, you’ll wait for the end of the blooming to prune (otherwise, you’ll be removing the future flowers). However, it they appear later in summer, you can prune in the fall and even in spring, because cut flower buds will have time to regenerate.

What about trees or shrubs that don’t produce flowers of ornamental value? Prune your deciduous plants in fall or early spring, and conifers at the end of spring.

Trees and shrubs that don’t need pruning:

Of course, this seems a bit too simple… Let’s add all the special cases now! The following trees needn’t be pruned: fir, albizia, birch, camellia, catalpa, cedar, davidia, spruce, ginkgo, beech, sweetgum, magnolia, mahonia, walnut, pine, tulip tree

How to prune

Pruning shears in positionTo get a straight, clean cut that will heal fast, hold the hand pruner with the blade against the tree and the anvil on the side of the branch that will be cut.

Disinfect your tools properly after each cut or at least after each plant, to avoid spreading bacteria and fungus spores. For larger branches, use two-hand lopers.

Also, spread wound healing pruning paste (pine tar) on the cut wounds to shut out diseases.

Pierrick Le Jardinier

Images: dreamstime: Andmorg; Pixabay: Michael Schwarzenberger, Michael Tampakakis
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