Proper Pruning: How Critical is it?

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Proper Pruning: How Critical is it?

Proper Pruning can make or break a landscape.
It is another way to judge just how good your landscape really is.
You can pick the right plant and install it in the correct location only to have the traits of the plant minimalized by improper pruning.

There are a few questions that should be considered before any pruning is done at all:
1) Why am I pruning? For shape? For structure?

2) Is the pruning going to help or hurt the flowering?  Timing is everything on proper flower production for most plants.  You need to know when they bloom.

3) Is this plant in the right place?  For example am I pruning this plant because it is much too large for the space it is planted in?  Some pruning to contain or shape the plant is ok.  But if you are having to constantly cut the plant back severly then maybe it is not the right plant for that particular location.

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You should know your plant species so that you can prune them properly at the correct time to help bring out the characteristics of the plants.  In a perfect world we would prune every plant by hand at the absolute best time.  Being realistic with schedules and production you can prune when you need to without doing harm to the plant; providing you are pruning properly. For example most flowering shrubs should be pruned after the flowers have bloomed.  Otherwise you may be cuting off the flowers before they have bloomed thus not utilizing the reason the plant was even selected in the landscape.  Know your plants: when they bloom, on what type of wood do they bloom; new or older?  What will the effect be if they are pruned at a certain time?

Shearing is a way certain shrubs can be pruned, typically evergreens, to create a certain shape or contain a shrub to a certain area.  However there are a few things to keep in mind as shearing over time can harm the plant.  For example plants that are sheared over time typically only have growth on the outer few inches.  Healthy plants typically have foliage growing throughout the plant that allows the leaves to create more energy through photosythesis and also to fill in as branches die or may be damaged.  This requires some light getting to the interior of the plant.  Too acheive this you may need to “hole punch” the plant by going in and removing small branches that will create a hole for light to get in to the interior of the plant.  This also can give the plant more depth when viewed from a distance.

Pruning of perennials.  This is one thing people don’t usually even think about.  I would encourage people to prune or even remove parts of certain perennials to help continue flowering, contain the plant(s) to a certain area, and remove spent or unsightly parts of the plant.  This will typically encourage more growth and vigor when the plant is getting adequate nutrients and moisture.  So don’t forget to maintain your perennials.

Tree pruning can really be an art.  In general trees can be pruned any time of year.  Of course there are exceptions and you can read up on the particular species.  Again the questions are: why you are pruning it, and what you are trying to acheive with the pruning?  The key is to make good clean cuts with the proper tools and techniques.  A sharp saw is a must for branches typically larger than 1/2″ and a clean sharp pair of bypass hand pruners such as a Felco #2.  For the saw I like one of the tri-cut saws that you can get in tight spaces but cut very smooth and easily.  Word of caution these tools are extremely sharp and do not know the difference between a branch or your finger so pay attention how and what you are cutting!

One key point is to make sure when you make a cut on a branch that it does not rip the bark.

On smaller branches (1″ or less) you can usually hold the branch with one hand and cut with the other.

On larger branches I suggest the 3 cut method:

1) About a foot or so above the where the branch is attached to where you want to remove it, cut underneath up into the branch 1/2″-1″ depending on the size of the branch (you don’t want to cut so much the saw gets bound up).

2) Further out from the underneath cut approximately 3″ or so go ahead and cut the branch all the way through.  The underneath cut should stop the branch from ripping the bark into the parts of the tree you want to save.

3)  Now you can cut the remaining stub off back to the branch collar.  This is probably the most critical thing in any tree pruning.  Finding and cutting to the branch collar.  If you cut into the branch collar, research has shown it severly affects how the tree “compartmentalizes” this wound.  I suggest you research what a branch collar may look like for the particular species of tree you would like to prune.  You do not want to leave a stub after removing a branch as it severly inhibits the tree from “healing” itself from the cut.

Pruning is an important part to the success of any landscape and hiring a true “professional” or doing it yourself the proper way can add real value to your property.  The effort and money spent on pruning is well worth the effort and will set your property off from everyone else’s.

Check out this video from owner Joe Markell about Proper Pruning on YouTube. If you have any questions or would like an estimate for pruning give Sunrise a call at 703-544-0028.

Contact Sunrise Landscape and Design, Northern Virginia’s premier landscaping company for all your lawn maintenance needs.  We are a full service landscape contractor serving Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County and Loudoun County.  Whether you need landscape design with water features, landscape lighting, walkways and patios
or lawn maintenance services such as lawn mowing, mulching turf care, leaf clean-up or garden clean-up we work with you to make your landscape beautiful.


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