Master Gardener - How to avoid common tree-pruning mistakes

Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 07:21 PM.

During my career as a horticulturist I once worked as a landscaper.  We had demanding clients who took pride in their pristine landscapes. One of my duties was to prune trees. I remember being terrified of cutting a huge hole into a tree or cutting a branch too close to the trunk. My boss use to always tell me “you can cut more off but you cannot glue it back on.” These are words to prune by.

What is pruning? 

Pruning is the removal of plant parts to improve form and growth.  Branches are removed with minimal damage to growing tissue so that the wound will close in the shortest period of time and with the least possibility of wound infection.

There is nothing more noticeable than a poorly pruned tree.  Pruning is a science and an art.  The science involves recognizing plant flaws and eliminating these defects.  The artistic side involves removing these bad parts or pieces without someone knowing the plant has even been touched.  Improper pruning or pruning at the wrong time of the year can result in unsightly plants, reduced flowering, or plants that are more likely to be damaged by diseases, insects, or winter cold. 

Why do we prune? 

We prune to train the tree, maintain plant health, improve the quality of flowers, fruit, foliage and stems and finally to control growth. When pruning, it is important to remove the three D’s from any plant:  dead, diseased or dying wood.

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