Friday 27 February 2015


There are a number of objectives to pruning, which vary according to the plant.  
  • Newly planted plants may be pruned to establish a framework for attractive and productive future growth.  
  • Fruit is pruned to maintain the tree in the shape to which it has been trained and to encourage prolific and regular fruiting.  
  • Hedges are pruned to keep the height and width required as well as to ensure that the hedge remains dense and effective as a barrier. 
  • Shrub pruning ensures that the plant is kept to the proportions required, to remove infection and to encourage flowering or the display of attractive fruit, stems and foliage. 
  • Tree pruning is carried out to let in more light or to create and maintain topiary, to remove old, dead or diseased branches and repair damage caused by disease or storms.
Pruning cuts

Pruning cuts should be made about 5mm from a healthy bud.  If the cut is too close there is a risk of damaging the bud, or if it is too far away it will wither and invite disease. Shorten all branches on a tree or shrub by equal amounts, unless you are pruning hedges or topiary and want a sculptured effect. This gives a natural look and reduces wind resistance.

Always prune above a lateral shoot as this will ensure that the sap is channelled towards the living part, otherwise the stumps that remain may produce unsightly growths and bring disease and infection back into the plant.

Pruning hedges
It is beneficial to cut back the new growth severely one year after a new hedge has been planted. The hedge will thicken up much more quickly this way because each shrub will then push out vigorous new shoots. When pruning small leaved shrubs it is much quicker and easier to use shears instead of secateurs but they must be kept sharp as blunt shears will damage the stems.

Pruning trees

The best time to prune most trees is at the start of the growing season during the spring, when the sap is just starting to rise and pruning wounds heal more quickly.  There are some notable exception to this rule like birches, cherries, maples and walnuts which have vigorous sap circulation and should therefore be cut in the autumn when the sap is descending.

Never remove a large branch with a single cut as this is likely to cause snagging and damage.  Saw off branches in manageable sections until you are left with a stub that is 30-45 cm long.  When removing the last stub you can prevent it from snagging by making a cut in an upward direction one third of the way through and then cut down through the branch.

Secure larger branches with a safety sling.  First secure the branch that is to be removed by tying a rope over a strong branch above.  Cut the branch in sections and use the rope pulley to lower each one gently to the ground.

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