A Time to Prune

Make a few winter cuts to keep trees and shrubs in shape.

| January/February 2008

  • LEAD_iShearsCloseup
    Sharp pruning shears and a keen eye for structure are key to keeping trees and shrubs healthy and in good shape.
    iStockPhoto.com/Mervi Lievonen
  • iPruningBranches
    Heavy-duty loppers are ideal for removing hard to reach and especially large-diameter stems. This pruning tool's long handles make cutting harder wood easier too.
    iStockPhoto.com/Andreas Kaspar
  • iTrimmingShrub
    A snip here and a snip there bode well for spring growth.
    iStockPhoto.com/Andreas Kaspar
  • iSawingWillowTree
    Trimming tree branches may take a bit more effort. Be safe.
    iStockPhoto.com/Christine Glade

  • LEAD_iShearsCloseup
  • iPruningBranches
  • iTrimmingShrub
  • iSawingWillowTree

Have you ever caught yourself peering through the window on a sunny winter’s day yearning for a more meaningful task in the garden than filling the bird feeder? The ground is frozen, so working the soil in the vegetable garden is out of the question. Leaves that have gathered in perennial beds insulate the shallow rooted plants from the rest of the season’s cold and are best left in place. What is a gardener to do?

Prune, prune, prune.

The task of trimming trees and shaping shrubs is often completed in winter because the plants are dormant, and, in the case of deciduous species, leafless. This allows you to take care of business in a season when there are few other things to do, instead of when everything is growing at what seems like a hundred miles per hour. It also makes the job easier because formerly foliage-covered problems can be detected more readily.

Understanding your plants is the most important part of dormant pruning, or any pruning for that matter. If you have a blooming shrub, know when it blooms. Spring bloomers, such as forsythia, lilac and quince, produce flower buds on the previous season’s growth. Pruning these plants now will remove flowers that are poised to appear in the coming weeks. But the process won’t hurt the plant, and it might be wise to do some shaping, if the specimen has grown too large for its location. Summer-blooming shrubs like crape myrtle and dwarf spirea develop flower buds on the new growth of the season, so a winter haircut will actually promote more blossoms for the coming season.

It is wise to avoid pruning more tender shrubs until you are sure that winter’s chill has passed. Shrub roses are one of the plants that I would group as tender. Even though they come through the winter in excellent fashion, an early winter pruning can result in some damage at the cut. It really doesn’t harm the plant, but you will need to prune out the resulting dead and damaged stems later, which isn’t very productive.

Dormant pruning of landscape trees is a must in my garden. With the foliage absent, I can give the plant’s structure a good inspection and easily identify deficiencies. I have heard from some gardeners that it is hard for them to prune without the foliage because they cannot picture how the tree will look without the leaves. My standard reply: “If you were building a house, wouldn’t you want to inspect the structure, and make changes before the siding goes on?”

Gerald Wlosinski_2
9/6/2009 5:55:54 PM

I love in the city so raiseing chickens is out of the question but we can raise rabbits . Can you enclude some ( or a lot ) of articles on how to reise , and care for them so they can be used for food.



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