How and When to Prune Bushes and Ornamental Trees

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Do you have tools that look like these?

Ornamental trees and shrubs need to be pruned to maintain their health which requires certain skills. Of course, I think the best thing you can do is to call a professional, but if you want to tackle the project on your own, here are some valuable tips:

Know your timing.

Avoid pruning on very hot days, before and during flowering, and when the plant is growing the fastest. For flowering shrubs, pruing immediately after blooming will prevent cutting off the buds for next year’s bloom. Late fall through late winter is often the best time to structurally prune shrubs and trees.

Use sharp, clean tools.

You wouldn’t amputate your own thumb with a rusty old saw.  Treat your ornamental trees and shrubs with similar respect and use clean, sharp tools. Clean, smooth, properly placed cuts allow the tree or shrub to heal the wound. The alternative introduces disease, rot, and possible death to the tree or shrub. For small branches always use a pair of sharp, good quality bypass cutters and a good quality, sharp pruning saw for larger cuts.

Do you have tools that look like these?

Do you have tools that look like these?

Don’t shear!!!

The use of common types of oscillating hedge trimmers, the type that look like a sawfish, is risky, and should only be used in certain situations. I find them to be best for shaping hedgerows, and only with certain specific shrub varieties that can handle the stress caused by this type of pruning. In almost all cases, it is better to prune your shrubs with a pair of handheld bypass clippers that allow you to make controlled, clean cuts. Thin a hedge as well to let air and light into the interior and encourage dense new growth and long-term health.

Think natural and light is your shrubs friend.

Marshmallows are great in your hot chocolate, but not in your garden.  For a clean, sophisticated look in your yard, prune your shrubs and ornamental trees to enhance their natural beauty, and the beauty of your home. Let the trees look like trees, and the shrubs look like shrubs with a natural form. Try to make sure that the branch structure tapers from wide at the bottom to narrower at the top so that light can get to all the branches.

Be Careful!

Unless you’re Paul Bunyan, don’t go overboard. Pruning or cutting down a very large tree or tree limb can result property destruction and serious injury or even death.  Be safe, and always call an insured professional!