PRUNING AND TRAINING GARDEN SHRUBS
"The Art and Science of Pruning"
By Alan Jolliffe
Pruning is art of training plants. Pruning is not an end in itself. Pruning is a stimulus for desirable plant growth.
Introduction. Very few publications on pruning mention relationship between pruning and training when explaining how to prune all types of plants, particularly of garden shrubs. This relationship is vital and must be well understood by gardeners, unfortunately it is not. Often pruning and training is not well practiced in both public and private gardens. However pruning, and therefore training, is one of those garden arts which must be practiced - and practice makes perfect.
Pruning is both an art and science, but there is now a lot more science than art and that is not a good thing. Pruning is becoming a lost art and it needs to be revived before it is lost altogether. The training of young plants is more important than control of old plants or regeneration of old plants. Young plants are very easily trained from time they are planted out in garden.
Of all jobs in garden nothing causes so much controversy and worry as does pruning.
Why do we prune? To grow large blooms for exhibition or fun using all plant's vigor. To train plant to best suit position we planted it in. To remove dead and diseased wood from plant. To keep plant in proportion for position in which it is growing. To ensure maximum air and sunlight reach all parts of plant. To enable best features of plant to be shown off in garden.
Tools of trade. The first priority is to make sure your pruning tools are clean and sharp. The basic tools are secateurs and a hand pruning saw. Loppers are alright but can be an unnecessary expense. Secateurs are used to cut branches up to 20mm in diameter after that you can use a saw without doing any harm to branch. A hand saw can cut quite large diameter branches without difficulty. In fact far to many people use a chainsaw when they do not have to and a chainsaw is very dangerous in these situations. They are also slower by time you get them started and make cut, a handsaw is faster and better exercise!
Starting to prune. Always start pruning from top down. One of most common mistakes is to remove weaker shoots at bottom of shrub thus creating a clear stem sometimes many centimeters off ground. (These are then 'standard' shrubs). Starting at top allows you to shape plant more easily. You can see plant and get a much better idea of shrub when finished.
Look for what I call 'inner shape'. On many shrubs it is possible to see an outline of foliage smaller than existing shrub. Removal of foliage back to this shape is then a relatively easy matter. It is identification of inner shape that allows you, artist and gardener, to quickly and easily complete pruning of any tree or shrub. You will know what you are aiming to achieve and that makes task easier.
Once cut you cannot put plant pieces back on plant so don't cut back to far. It is just as easy to come back and take some more material off rather than be disappointed.