Poorly pruned trees don’t bounce back easily from their ugly duckling state. The redbud tree in the foreground is poorly pruned; the one to the left (background) shows an unpruned redbud tree with its natural multi-branched trunk and vase shape. It’s always best to hire a certified arborist to tackle tree pruning if your goal is to shape a tree.
Invest in a good pair of pruners or a sharp pair of scissors that you can use on indoor plants. If you go the scissors route, keep that pair solely for use on plants so they deliver the sharpest, cleanest cut
Remove lower leaves on tomato plants to help reduce disease outbreaks. Wait until first tomatoes form, and remove leaves below the first fruit cluster. This helps prevent disease spores (living in soil) from splashing onto lower leaves during rainstorms. Combining a thick mulch with lower leaf pruning are two simple steps that bring big results toward improving your tomato harvest.
Unless you want to leave seedheads in place for winter bird feasting, it’s a good idea to jump-start spring clean-up by pruning perennial stems before the snow flies. Don’t cut stems of plants like Russian sage (shown) shorter than 2 feet, especially in coldest areas. Shortening stem height helps protect plants from heavy snow. In coldest regions, avoid snipping stems shorter than about 4 inches. Remaining stem stubs catch fall leaves, which can help insulate plant crowns.
Cutting tools are vital to successful gardening. Start with the dynamic duo of hand pruners or shears and loppers. Hand pruners are the tool of choice for stems up to ¾ inches thick. It’s a go-to tool for deadheading or pruning perennials, trimming new growth on shrubs and snipping thick pepper and squash stems. With hand pruners and loppers, a bypass blade design (blades work like scissors) give you more cuts and versatility in the garden. Also invest in a sharpening tool of some type, along with lessons on use. Clean and sharpen cutting blades regularly to keep them in tiptop shape. Last but not least, pick up a good pair of sturdy scissors (bright handles are preferable—helps in not losing them in the yard). You’ll grab those for snipping twine, herbs, flowers for bouquets, greens and a host of other items.
To guide the eye through the garden, layers of pruned boxwood become central focal points that engage the visitor. Using the same plant in varying shapes and heights highlights the unique spaces within the formal garden and the artistry of a manicured, clipped hedge.
Pruning causes plants to produce new growth, which is tender and highly vulnerable to freezing temperatures. Wait to prune shrubs, including butterfly bush and caryopteris, until spring, when all danger of frost has passed. At that point you can remove any winter killed branches. In future years, aim to get pruning done by late August, so plants have time to harden off before freezes arrive.
Welcome guests with a topiary spiral dwarf Alberta spruce, which adds contrasting curves to the straight lines of a front door. Because of the slow growth rate, dwarf Alberta spruce usually only needs minimal pruning. Do it once a year (if needed) in spring after new growth is appearing. Use sharp pruners and remove only as much as necessary. Spiral and other topiary forms need more consistent pruning than the Christmas tree shapes.
When the angle between a branch and the tree trunk is less than 45 degrees, the branch doesn’t have great support on the trunk side. When pruning trees, prune to create scaffolded branches with angles to the trunk between 45 and 60 degrees.
When ice covers trees and shrubs, ditch the temptation to shake branches. This can actually damage plants. Branches should return to normal position once ice melts. If branches break under the icy weight, prune only what’s necessary to prevent further damage—and wait to do it when conditions are safe. Pruning with ice underfoot is never a good idea.
An intense and intoxicating perfume wafts from the flowers of night-blooming jasmine each evening. Plants blossom intermittently year-round and grow rapidly. Prune as needed to retain shape. Just make sure not to prune too often, since flowers form on mature stems. Give this plant a sunny southern window for best flowering. Botanical name: Cestrum nocturnum