A season for pruning woodies

gardener makes the winter pruning with big scissors

Garden Views by Kent Petterson

Most maintenance and shaping of your landscape trees and shrubs is best if done in the winter dormant season after freeze up and before the sap flows in spring.  I say “most” because some of our woody plants are flowering. Since the new flower buds form after flowering, these are best pruned just after and before new buds are formed during that growing season.

When flowering and fruiting are not involved, it is always best to prune during colder weather. The wound at the pruning cut is a source of disease for these plants, but a proper cut minimizes exposure and fungi and viral diseases are least active when it is cold.

A proper cut is much more than just giving the plant a haircut or eliminating branches that are growing too close to utility wires. 

First rule is to sharpen and clean your cutting tools.

Second, don’t do too much. The plant needs buds that leaf out to produce food for the plant in the next year. No more than 1/3 of the plant top volume should be pruned.

Third, check out a pruning reference to understand some of the specific pruning methods. There are too many to cover here.

Fourth, remove dead and dying branches.

Fifth, be careful when cutting at the point of attachment at a branch or trunk of the plants. Research has determined that a cut that is perpendicular to the branch. The growing point is a “branch collar“ of growth tissue at the point of attachment. This must not be damaged. If this growing point is damaged by breakage, do not dress the wound with any covering. It is best to let it heal exposed to the air.

Good luck, and when you are feeling uninspired, remember that by turning your attention to pruning you will allow your woodies to return a more attractive plant in the spring. 

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