Selective Tree and Shrub Pruning is Simplifying Branch Structure & Getting Rid of the Worst Offenders.
We’ve been blessed with a lot of rain this year, and it has certainly promoted healthy growth for our trees and shrubs! Day after day we service properties to keep gardens looking their best. We’ve talked about seasonal pruning before, where we prune flowering trees and shrubs after they bloom; spring blooming plants by early summer and summer blooming plants by early fall. Now we are going to talk selective tree and shrub pruning.
So now that many of us have trees and shrubs that are spring blooming plants and we don’t want to cut off developing flower buds, what do we do? Using a process referred to as selective tree & shrub pruning is key in pruning plants and keeping them looking their best, without interfering with bloom cycles. This is not done with shears or hedge trimmers! We have set ourselves apart from other landscape maintenance companies by the strategy that we use to enhance the form of trees and shrubs, and we are going to share how it is done. With a little practice, you can do it too.
Don’t get me wrong, there are occasional purposes in which we do shear plants, such as a boxwood hedge, but overall, it is not our go-to method. We have developed our strategy of “getting rid of the worst offenders” and “simplifying branch structure” so there are fewer plant branches overall to prune. So, what does this mean? I’m going to do my best to explain how I developed these practices for our Landscape Division, so you can improve the appearance of your plants when they need pruning.
Selective Tree and Shrub Pruning is very important! Just look at the difference it made with this Japanese Maple.
It is easiest to do this when deciduous plants are naked, but this type of pruning can be done anytime, and that’s why it works for us spring throughout fall. Try to look at the overall form of the plant first, then take a closer look at the branch structure. Whether we are talking about a tree or shrub, this principle is the same. First look for conflicting branches that may be rubbing other or growing in the wrong direction. Start at the bottom and work upward. If branches are too low, possibly laying on the ground or growing too horizontally into neighboring plants, remove them. This works to shape plants that may be too wide into a slightly narrower vase shape with a tidier appearance without seeing any visible blunt cuts. Tip: Remove branches at the trunk or crotch of a branch, do not leave stubs.
Now that you may have removed the most obvious of branches from the base of the plant and maybe even the center, and you want to reduce the overall size of the plant. You’ve already begun to “simplify stem structure” so there will be fewer cuts to the pruning, now it’s time to “get rid of the worst offenders.” Please have a little patience and bear with me now, selective tree and shrub pruning are very important. Resist the urge to just hack it back at this point because you think it is easier because most times it is not, and the long-term effect will require less work to maintain with a much better plant aesthetically.
I always strive to leave some of the newest growth at the tip of the branches, so it isn’t obvious that the plant was just pruned. My version to get rid of the worst offenders is to look at the most obvious branches that you want to be shorter. Don’t just cut the branch you are working on to the desired height, rather go deeper inside the plant and cut it shorter, hiding your cut within the exterior tips from other neighboring branch tips. Don’t attempt to cut every single branch tip every time you prune, only prune the worst offenders to reduce size. You will be left with a smaller plant that has a good appearance. Many times, it seems appropriate to cut back a branch just above other small branches or pairs of leaves, but the problem with this is that it results in a weird looking Y shape where the last cut was made as the plant continues to grow. By cutting deeper to remove the branch, you avoid this result which creates an unpleasant looking plant.
Hopefully, this makes sense to you, but if not let us know. We offer pruning services and landscape maintenance, as well as billable consultations to teach you how to prune your own plants. Selective tree and shrub pruning will provide you with better insight now as to where you can plant spring-blooming bulbs and fall plants too! Keeping plants looking their best keeps your entire property looking its best and enhances curb appeal.