To Prune or Not to Prune

 No matter how much you water and fertilize your trees and shrubs, the day will come when they need to be pruned. Pruning is done for shaping, to remove spent branches, to encourage flowering and new growth and to remove infected limbs. It is also done to improve air circulation in certain types of shrubs. Keep reading to learn why it is important to prune or not to prune.

 Not all pruning is done at the same time of year. Some trees,shrubs and climbers benefit from an early spring pruning, while others require a late summer trim. If you are unsure of when to prune in your garden, it is best to get information on individual species. Taking the extra time to be sure of when to cut back the growth can make all of the difference between a happy tree and a dead tree.

Tree pruning
Maple tree in need of pruning

 Depending on your existing or planned landscape, you may or may not need to prune now. First, we’ll start with the basic tools you will need for pruning.


Pruning saw – this is designed to cut through thick, woody branches. Some models are made with a folding blade, which protects it when not in use.

Pruning shears – a hand held scissor-type implement, designed to cut small branches. Do not exceed the recommended diameter, as personal injury and equipment damage can occur.

Loppers – these are built on the same principle as the pruning shears, but with long handles (for two-handed operation) and a stronger cutting surface. Most loppers can accommodate branches up to one inch in diameter. Once again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to maintain safety.

Shears – two-handed operation of this tool will make pruning and shaping your hedge a breeze. They have a long blade surface and their design allows for detailed shaping of hedges.

Gloves and goggles – whether your pruning job is big or small, it is always important to stay safe.

Pruning tools
Powered pole pruning

 The following lists provide basic information on what should be pruned at certain times. Remember, these may or may not reflect what is in your garden, so referring to individual species information is best.

Disinfectant wipes

 Types of Pruning

Clip for shaping – Boxwood, Christmas berry, Holly, Lavender, Privet, Cherry laurel, Portugal laurel, Yew

Minimal pruning – Bottlebrush, Rock rose, Witch hazel, Peony, Cherry, Kowhai

Annual cut backs – Angel’s trumpets, Butterfly bush, Tree mallow

Spring clipping – Laurel, Rose, Virginia Creeper, Group 3 Clematis

Late summer clipping – Hornbeam, Beech, Yew

After flowering – Barberry, Escallonia, Flowering currant, Group 1 Clematis (only to tidy), Group 2 Clematis, Hydrangea (only as required)

In winter – Blackthorn

 When pruning, it is important to remember to start with clean tools. Disinfecting in a bleach solution will ensure you do not transfer blights or other ailments from one plant to another. It only takes a moment to disinfect – a moment that could save your entire tree or shrub population.

 Get into the habit of taking a few moments during your regular garden chores to inspect your trees, shrubs and vines. You will soon learn what is the norm for them and you will be able to identify a problem quickly. 

If your not in the mood for work in the garden our next post may be for you. Take a look at our Top 20 DIY Garden Projects, we’re sure you’ll find some something fun!



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