I worked for Mount Saint Vincent University last summer as a groundskeeper. It’s a busy job, considering there was only 5 of us to maintain the grounds all summer long. From mowing lawns, to planting and watering flowers, weeding and maintaining all of the bushes and trees on campus, it takes a lot of work. Some tasks are simple and you can grasp pretty easily: “This is a lawn mower and this is how it works.” Some are a bit harder, like pruning. But with a bit of practice and a good teacher, anyone can learn to prune even the most delicate plants.
In hindsight, pruning is a lot more common sense than it feels. It can be daunting at first, but once you learn the basics it’s truly not so bad. The first thing that I learned is to prune back anything dead. This task is easy. On a rose, branches die off frequently. So it is simply a matter of finding the dead bits, and pruning them back to their point of origin. This is usually the point where they branch off from a larger section. It is important to attempt to prune as close to the larger branch as possible, to remove as much of the dead as possible. A nice clean cut is also important. The cleaner and closer the cut, the easier it is for the plant to heal. The faster the healing, the less opportunity for fungus and disease to get into your plant.
The second important lesson I learned was directionality. For example, if an unruly bush is threatening to impede your walking path by overgrowing into your walk-space, try to prune the branches that are growing outwards, in the direction you no longer want them too. But don’t prune the ones that are growing in a direction that is non-threatening, directions like parallel to the sidewalk or growing into the plant. These branches fill out your bush, but don’t take up any precious walk-space.
Also important when pruning trees (especially fruiting ones) is to remove the “suckers” from the bottom of the tree trunk. These little guys usually grow up from the ground surrounding the trunk and are a waste of energy for your tree. This energy drain takes away from the fruit that your tree would make. Also they will eventually grow and take up more room and become unruly, so it’s best to get them when they are small.
Lastly, it is important not to prune in the fall. Trees and bushes are more comfortable being pruned in the early spring and winter, while they are dormant and before they fully wake up in the spring. You can do much heavier pruning at this time. However, you will likely need to prune during the late spring and summer months and that is fine! Just make sure not to cut too much off of your tree or bushes at this time, as they will feel a shock more than when they would when they are dormant. Not pruning in the fall is important because fungus and moulds are more active in the autumn months. This is when they spore and spread. Opening fresh wounds on your plants at this time greatly increases the chance of your plants getting a disease and suffering damage. It is best to avoid this and not prune in the fall.
All this considered, pruning is a fairly straight-forward task once you have the basics. We are hosting a pruning workshop at the Garden space on Wednesday May 18th at 6pm. All the topics in this blog will be talked about plus some species specific hints and tricks. You can register for this event at our Facebook page, or by clicking here.
Thanks for reading. Happy Pruning.
Landon Getz – External Coordinator