Pause Before Pruning

Year-round trimming efforts require proper tools and preparation. Take some time before you start the job this spring; your trees and shrubs will thank you.

Take some time to prepare and ready your tools before the pruning begins.

Take some time to prepare and ready your tools before the pruning begins.

iStockphoto.com/Andreas Kaspar

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Spring will be here any day now. And when it comes this year, you’ve vowed to help your shrubs and trees get off to a better start. So, even though you’re not an expert, you’ve decided you need to do some pruning. Ready to start clipping, lopping, trimming and sawing?

Wait! Don’t start pruning yet – particularly if you aren’t certain where, when and how to begin.

First of all, remember that what you’re about to do is virtually the same as plant “surgery.” So, if you want your “patients” to recover and flourish, take time to go over some basic information that will help you do it right. The result will be a more professional-looking job with less trauma to your landscaping and better-controlled, well-directed growth this summer.

First, take time to ask yourself these questions: Do I have the right tools for pruning? Do I know the right time to prune my various trees and shrubs? Do I know where to prune for best results?

Having the right tools always comes first. Don’t start pruning before taking a close look at the equipment you’ll be using.  Be very critical, because like many novices, you’re probably relying on tools that have been inherited, accumulated over several years, are badly in need of sharpening or simply not suited for the job.

If one or all of these applies, it pays to make a fresh start. In fact, time spent in “retooling” with quality-made pruning equipment can be a wise investment toward a healthier, more attractive landscape.

 

Selecting the Right Pruning Tools

How do you get equipped for proper pruning? For advice, we consulted Phil Rogers from Corona Clipper, a firm whose eight decades of crafting tools for cutting and digging have made it well-respected among gardeners and landscape professionals.

His shopping advice for the novice: “Look at buying pruning tools as an investment that can pay off for years to come. Avoid so-called ‘bargain’ tools that lose their edges quickly and won’t tolerate hard use. Otherwise, you’ll wind up spending more in the long run and risk damaging your trees and shrubs. Look instead for tools that offer affordable quality and have a reputable guarantee. You’ll be a lot more satisfied, and the results of your work will show it.”

With this in mind, Rogers outlined helpful basics to remember when you decide it’s time to “retool” for better pruning results. “If your budget is limited, you’ll want to focus on buying four basic types of pruning tools,” he says. “They include hand pruners, loppers, hedge shears and saws. Each has variations that you may want to add, but if you concentrate on getting good quality in each category, you’ll be able to do a better job season after season.”

Hand Pruners – If you’re like most gardeners, these are the tools you’ll use the most. It’s important to remember that there are two types of hand pruners: bypass and anvil. Each cuts in a different way and is designed for specific jobs. As a result, you’ll want to own both and know when to use them during different seasons and growth stages.

Bypass pruners use blades, which slide by each other with a scissor-like cutting action. This lets you make clean, quick-healing cuts on healthy roses, shrubs and plants. Anvil pruners use a straight-edge blade that cuts against a soft metal anvil. They’re designed for trimming dry and woody growth.

What to look for: Look for top-quality construction, including forged steel alloy for bypass pruners and high carbon steel for anvil pruners. Make sure the tool is sized and balanced so that it feels comfortable in your hand. It’s a good idea to look for ergonomically-designed pruners for maximum comfort and minimum stress on your joints.

* Quick Tip: Hand pruners are rated for the maximum diameter of the branch they’re meant to cut —usually 1/2” to 1.” Don’t risk damage to plant and tool by trying to force them through larger material. For this you’ll need a lopper.

Loppers – These “grown-up” pruners have longer handles to provide extra reach and leverage for trimming growth as large as 3 inches in diameter. Like hand pruners, they’re available with bypass or anvil cutting action. You’ll find a variety of sizes available, including designs engineered to multiply your cutting power.

What to look for: On bypass styles, look for forged steel alloy blades that able to be re-sharpened, replaceable blade and anvil on anvil styles. Handles should include comfortable, non-slip grips.

* Quick Tip: If you buy just one set of loppers, a 26” bypass model (see illustration) is a good basic choice.

Hedge Shears – These are an essential tool for shaping and removing excess growth from bushes, shrubs and hedges. A variety of blade and handle styles is available, including extendable models to provide extra reach.

What to look for: Make sure your shears have forged steel alloy blades that re-sharpen easily. Top grade hardwood handles with comfortable non-slip grips.

* Quick Tip: Use hedge shears only on soft, young growth. Avoid use on older, larger material where hand pruners or loppers work best.

Saws – When branches are too big to cut cleanly with a lopper, it’s important to include a professional-quality saw as part of your pruning equipment. Saws are available in a wide variety of styles including straight and curved blades and with handles that are fixed or which fold for easy carrying.

What to look for: Blades designed with 3-sided razor teeth offer more cutting efficiency than conventional saws.

* Quick Tip: If you buy just one saw, make sure it’s large enough to handle medium to large-size branches. This will save time and help you do a better job.

 

Deciding When and How to Prune

In most parts of the country, deciduous trees and shrubs, broad-leafed evergreens and conifers (except for pines) should be pruned in the spring. But spring isn’t the only season when proper trimming and shaping can be beneficial to the various plants, trees and shrubs around your home. One good way to find out more about these and other pruning basics is to access www.coronaclipper.com and click on “Gardening Advice” to download the popular Principles of Pruning. This easy-to-understand publication, with its companion Principles of Planting, has become one of the most frequently accessed guides for homeowners who want a quick, authoritative review written to help them understand how to preserve and enhance their landscapes.

Principles of Pruning is a well-illustrated guide to understanding the necessary tools. In addition, there are important “when, where and how” instructions explaining proper maintenance, renovation and pruning of shade and ornamental trees, ornamental shrubs, broadleaf evergreens, hedges, ornamental vines and roses.

Prune safely: 

● Protect your eyes with goggles.

● Avoid using ladders or other potentially unstable surface.

● Guard against endangering people and property with falling branches.

● Do not prune near electrical wires or equipment.  

● Always use well-maintained tools that are suited for the job.

Stay sharp:

● Make sure the pruning tools you buy have blades that are able to be sharpened, and keep a file handy to help maintain a good cutting edge. Sharpen often, paying attention to maintaining the blade’s original angle. Keep a spare blade on hand when using saws with replaceable saw blades, or have permanent blades sharpened professionally. As a result, you’ll do less damage when pruning and maintain healthier plants.

● Keep tools clean: Remove any sap that accumulates on tool blades with kerosene or another solvent.  Wipe down tools with an oily cloth before storing.

According to the experts at Corona, careful investment in a basic set of good-quality pruning tools can pay off in the long run. You’ll be getting tools that cut cleanly, last longer and encourage you to do a better job, an important incentive toward learning more about how to maintaining healthier, more attractive shrubs and trees. Finally, you’ll be taking an important step toward preserving, or even increasing, the value of your property. Study after study shows potential buyers have a higher perception of a home’s value when it has a well-designed, properly maintained landscape.

Corona® landscaping and gardening tools are available at many hardware and garden supply stores nationwide. Call 800-847-7863 for the name of a dealer near you, and visit the website for more information.