A GROWING CONCERN: No shortcut for pruning

I’VE BEEN A pruning maniac this last 16 days!

Taking full advantage of the “cold snap” has me almost caught up. But pruning is vital, so let’s press forward with my ever-present pruning companion and the reasons I prune.

Intelligently alter form

This is indeed the essence of all pruning because anytime you prune, it should be because you desire to alter or control, even manipulate, the character, shape and habits of the plant.

Whether you are cognizant of the consequences of your pruning, or not, the plant or branch will respond in an absolute and predictable manner.

This is the basis of all pruning. You should always be pruning with the end result (even if it takes years to develop) clearly in mind.

You should be thinking: Do I want more flowers? Can I develop a view through the bushes? How can I stop the shrubs from scratching my siding? How can I get my fruit trees to produce more fruit?

All these plant pruning concerns and numerous other questions have their answers in the ability to alter with intelligence (knowledge of pruning) the way the plant grows.

By determining the shape and direction of your various plants, you become the master of your plants, not the other way around.

Topiary, bonsai, cut-flower roses and hedges would be quintessential examples of the form, but please, for extra pruning credit and in order to drive home this point, go rent the best Hollywood pruning movie ever made, “Edward Scissorhands” starring Johnny Depp.

Fruit, flower, foliage

This should be the prime motivating force driving you to prune many of your plants.

After all, isn’t it more fruit, flowers and bushy, colorful leaves we all strive for?

Roses, pussywillows, grapes, apples, red-twigged dogwood, rhododendrons, blueberries, photinia and coral bark maples are all fine examples of pruning in order to increase fruit, flower or foliage production.

In short, heading cuts cause these increases, and next week, I will cut deeply into this subject.

But for today, realize that proper pruning can double, triple, even quadruple flowers, colored leaves and fruit, which is a wonderful payback for your time.

Rejuvenate, rehabilitate

I always start this explanation by stating that this form of pruning is an effort to stave off the chainsaw or bulldozer.

It is an extremely aggressive form of pruning that targets very neglected, thin, spindly, huge, ragged plants that are just plain ugly and through the course of 3 to 5 years, recover a prolific, lush, dense plant — the reason you planted it in the first place.

By definition, this type of pruning removes 60 percent or more of the actual mass of the plant and results in a lush, compact, full-flowering specimen.

Rhododendrons, lilacs, dogwoods, roses, vines, old hedges, spireas, potentillas and forsythias are prime candidates for reclamation techniques, as are old orchard trees.

So, for this week, look at your plants, think about the reasons they need pruning, sharpen your equipment, buy a new set of Felco pruners and go do some dead-wooding. This will be in preparation for better things to come.

And please, 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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