A GROWING CONCERN: For perfect pruning, cut wisely and confidently

GO HAWKS! AND as an NFL co-owner of the Green Bay Packers, it almost kills me to say that!

But, as I mentioned last week; we are now in “pruning season” and your mind should be on that as much as the Seahawks.

With that said, pruning is one of the most difficult and technical chores a gardener will perform in their yard.

In a few days, we will be in the start of early mid-winter, and with this beginning, let us continue a course on pruning your entire yard.

We will continue through some essential information and some tricks to achieve botanical wonders.

First, I want to first lay down some quick tenets in pruning that I referenced last week.

1. Have confidence!

Don’t be afraid to really cut away.

I really believe the number one reason for poor pruning results is the inability of many people to cut away vast hunks of the plant, especially if that plant has new buds or flowers coming on.

Some roses are too tall for their area and I am sure it is because at any given time new buds were coming on and folks just can’t bring themselves to remove flowers.

Certain plants (roses) should be in a constant state of being pruned low after individual stalks flower.

Be prepared to cut away 30 to 50 percent, or more, of certain plants.

2. Learn to see the inner plant.

I never, ever prune any plant without first, in my mind’s eye, seeing the finished plant.

There is a perfect place to prune each plant for the ideal results you want to achieve. Combined with that is the fact that many plants have interior layers, and pruning along those lines gives the plant a natural look.

Many plants have stems or branches that must be cut out because they are either old (lilacs, roses, dogwoods), they cross over other branches (apples, cherries, magnolias), they are sucker shoots (all fruit trees) or they are just plain out of the perfect shape.

Before pruning, back up. Look carefully at the surgery and see the finished inner plant waiting to be set free.

3. Every cut must have a reason.

This is the quintessential essence of pruning.

Plant butchery is hacking away X amount because the window or something else happens to be there.

Pruning is where I think about how the growth will occur from my cuts, then calculate the length of growth until my next pruning.

Rules to remember

There are two most important rules in pruning.

First, always prune on a node.

A node is that critical area on any stem for a branch, bud or leaf to originate.

There do not have to be leaves present (leaf scar).

A node most always is a line running around the stem with some kind of mark, dot or shape at the exact spot the new growth will emerge.

The second rule is that new growth takes off from, and only from, that point.

It grows in that direction at an accelerated rate due to stimulation by the prune.

So, in pruning, not only are you looking for a node to cut right atop of, but also you are looking for a node that has a direction of desired growth.

If pruning out in front of a window, select a node well below this coming year’s new growth, and at a node not directly pointing back up into the window or towards the house.

An apple tree would be pruned at nodes pointing downward, creating arching branches that are easy to pick.

Stimulating cuts

Cutting close atop a node releases plant chemicals that not only stimulate growth, but also seal off the cut.

Cutting between nodes leaves a “horn” which can rot, let disease enter and kill the entire plant.

For this week, get used to cutting big chunks off and making big piles.

Seek out all crossover branches and remove them.

If they are larger than a lopper cut, always make your undercut first and deep at the bottom of the offending branch or you will strip the bark off a big piece of trunk.

Next, cut any old, decaying and split branches from tree shrubs and bushes.

Lastly, cut down severely all your potentilla and low growing spirea (2 to 4 foot). Reduce to perfect circular mounds 10 to 12 inches high.

When that is finished, at ground level, remove the top 15 percent of those biggest, woodiest stems.

They will be easy to see now and this will rejuvenate the bush.

But no matter what … stay well, all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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