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We prune to enhance growth, improve flower and fruit quality, to rid plants of diseased or broken growth, or simply to keep them neat and in check. Don’t prune anything and everything in winter, which some still regard as major pruning time. Many spring-, and summer-flowering deciduous shrubs set flower buds on the previous season’s new growth, so, if pruned in winter, you are literally cutting off the forthcoming flowering season’s potential blooms.
General pruning tips
- Prune back any unwieldy or untidy growth tips with a pair of sharp secateurs to maintain a tidy growth habit.
- Cut back fast-growing flowering shrubs immediately after flowering with a pair of short-handled lopping shears. Often they are best taken down to almost ground level.
- Prune hedges and topiaries with a pair of sharp hedge shears. Topiaries should be trimmed lightly all year long to keep their pretty shapes, and the same goes for hedges too. The less volume that is removed at any one pruning session, the healthier it is for the plants. All hedges should be shaped so that the bottom is slightly wider than the top of the hedge as this allows the sun to get to the bottom, thus avoiding bare or dead patches at the base.
- Regularly remove any suckers or unwanted lower branches on standard roses and trees at ground level with a curved pruning saw.
- Often large, overgrown or stressed-out shrubs benefit from a severe pruning that takes them down to knee level. This seems to give such a plant a new lease on life. Don’t be afraid to carry out this procedure – most shrubs recover swiftly, developing into a lush plant.
Pruning ornamental trees
Dead or unwanted branches must be removed from the trunk of a tree with a sharp pruning saw. The recommended method is to make the first cut on the underside of the branch, about 10cm away from the main stem, cutting about halfway through the branch. Start the second cut on the upper side of the branch, a few millimetres further away from the main stem than the first cut. Saw through until the branch falls; this leaves behind a short stump. Cut this stump off close to the main stem, using a quick sawing motion. This triple cut method will ensure a hygienic and tidy pruning wound.
Winter is the correct time to give conifers a light pruning with a sharp pair of hedge shears. This encourages fresh new spring growth and maintains the neat, symmetrical shape of the plant. It also assists in keeping the conifers at more manageable sizes.
Pruning evergreen shrubs
Evergreen shrubs need to be pruned and maintained on a regular basis, and winter is often the most appropriate opportunity to undertake these tasks simply because there is free time available.