One of the key elements for keeping your garden looking its best is proper pruning, and winter is a great time to get out there and get your garden in shape. (Both literally and figuratively)
The winter months are an excellent time to do the lion share of pruning for a variety of reasons. When the plants in the yard are without leaves it is easy to see the branching structure of the plant and make the right cuts to improve the form of the plant. Clean up after pruning is also easier without all the leaf litter to deal with. For the plants, winter pruning has the benefit of the plant being dormant so it can adapt to the changes when it comes out of dormancy in the spring. This puts less stress on the plant.
The Why of Winter Pruning
Before we can determine how to prune, we need to go back to why you are pruning in the first place. Most plants are perfectly fine in nature without being pruned at all. So why are we pruning? Well, pruning has two main purposes- to control the size of a plant, and to change the form of a plant. These two goals are not mutually exclusive. Which of these goals we seek to accomplish will determine how we prune.
The How of Winter Pruning
For many plants it’s best to keep the natural form of the plant by making individual cuts to reduce the size while maintaining the form. You should take a step back and look at the branching habit for crossing limbs and overextended branches that should be removed. You also want to remove any dead or damaged limbs.
For more formal plantings such as hedges we want to control the size AND SHAPE of the plants. When pruning hedges large or small you should make sure the plant tapers from top to bottom (narrower at the top and wider at the bottom) so sunlight can reach all the leaves or needles, which will keep the hedge lush and full.
For some very overgrown shrubs, a rejuvenative pruning may be needed. Shrubs such as yews and euonymus can be severely pruned back to almost nothing and recover to be smaller, healthier versions of themselves over time. With this, or any type of pruning, it is very important to know what plant you are pruning to do the job correctly.
Hicks Landscapes offers a pruning program where our knowledgeable pruning crews will make the right cuts, the right way, at the right time to keep your landscape at its best.
The Right Tools for the Job
As with any project you want to use the right tools for the job. For most cuts a quality hand pruner will give you a good, clean cut. For larger branches (up to one-inch size) you want to use loping shears that provide more leverage. For large limbs a pruning saw is the weapon of choice, and for hard to reach branches a pole clip or pole saw may be required. (I would leave anything requiring a ladder to the professionals to avoid being the star on the next “stupid people video”.) Whatever tool you use should be clean and sharp to prevent further damaging the plant (yes, every cut is an injury to the plant). Hicks Nurseries sells all the quality tools you need for a successful pruning.
By Ken Muellers, Senior Landscape Designer, Lifetime CNLP