It is that time of the year again - pruning time. Late dormant season is the best time to prune your trees and shrubs. Pruning your plants at the proper time will help you out with certain diseases and pests that are attracted to fresh cuts on certain plants. If you have oak trees, do not prune oaks in April, May or June to avoid the beetles that are attracted to the odor of freshly cut oak wood.
They spread the oak wilt disease. If fireblight has been a problem in your flowering crabapples, mountain ash, hawthorns and shrub cotoneasters, then pruning these trees now, will help alleviate some of that type of problem from reoccurring.
While we will have to wait a bit for the snow to melt in many of our gardens, in order to even find the shrubs, the snow does help protect the shrubs as long as possible from many of the rabbits and other varmits out there dining on them. The snow also protects them from winter's icy blast as well. We often go into the winter thinking about some of our shrubs that need a haircut or need replacing. So, let this be your guide to getting started.
Pruning is often done because we have problems with a certain tree or shrub. Generally speaking, I wait until spring has sprung so that I can see which branches that the rabbits have eaten their way through or if there are branches that heavy snowfall has broken off. We should also look for any branches that are rubbing against each other; remove any dead or dying branches; prune to maintain or encourage flower and fruit development; and yes, to control the size of the plant. With all of the deep snow, now is the time to reach some of those higher up branches-you won't have to use a ladder since, if your garden is like mine, the snow is piled so high, a ladder is not necessary.
The million dollar question that is often posed to me is which plants do you prune when so that I am not cutting off the flowers. This is especially true when looking at shrubs. Trees and shrubs that are considered early bloomers should be pruned immediately after they have bloomed this spring.
These would include: apricot, azalea, chokeberry, chokecherry, flowering plum, forsythia, lilac, and early blooming spirea. The shrubs that are grown for their foliage should be pruned in springtime before they leaf out. These include: alpine currant, barberry, buffaloberry, burning bush, dogwood, honeysuckle, ninebark, smokebush and sumac.
A question that is often asked is about shrubs that are overgrown. How do we prune these? It depends on what kind of shrub we are talking about. The shrubs that are listed above can be heavily pruned by cutting the oldest, thickest stems or trunks, right down to the ground. You wouldn't want to do this to the whole plant but cut down about one-third of the oldest stems so that after a few years growth, you will be back to a regular pruning schedule. I have seen where some folks have cut the entire shrub down to the ground-especially shrubs such as spirea or ninebark.
Generally, the plants do come back but the area that you have had this plant will look somewhat bare for quite a while during the time it takes for the shrub to grow back to its regular state.
The most important part of pruning your trees is to make sure that you are not pruning any branches or trees that are by electrical and utility wires. For these types of situations, you are much better off calling in the utility company for help. Any trees, shrubs or branches that overhang homes, parking areas or sidewalks or any of these that interfere with street lights, traffic signals, obscure vision at intersections and any that obscure the entry to your home, all should be dealt with for safety sake.
For more information on gardening, you can reach me email me at email@example.com