PRUNING

The pruning of shrubs, roses and fruit or other trees is a necessary operation and one which the less experienced usually do insufficiently. Pruning strengthens, improves appearance and results in freer flowering. Remove old branches which will no longer bear flowers and weak shoots which will only yield poor blossoms; where the growth is rampant, a percentage of good growth can be pruned away with benefit to future flowering.

Roses may be pruned in February or March, newly-planted bushes and standards being cut back to about 6 in. from the base, and to an outward pointing ‘eye’. Second year and older trees are treated rather differently. See ROSE for full discussion on pruning.

With shrubs, the pruning is to keep them shapely and to save weakening by too rank growth. Old wood should also be pruned away as it harbours insect pests. Spring-flowering shrubs are best pruned in May or June, or, if later in flowering, in July. Summer-flowering shrubs are pruned from March to June, or immediately after flowering. Autumn flowering ones are mostly pruned in March or April, but some are better pruned in the autumn after flowering. Winter-flowering shrubs are best pruned in late April or May. Details for particular shrubs are given under SHRUBS and TREES and, where necessary, under individual species. Trees are pruned occasionally, both the branches and, less frequently, the roots. It is wiser to ask expert advice as individual root treatment is necessary, particularly in regard to fruit trees, but to those who feel competent the following will be useful.

Root pruning of fruit trees is sometimes practised in autumn where a tree is excessively vigorous and cropping is poor. Root pruning may be effected by digging away the soil from the roots until the roots are disclosed, when some of the thickest ones are severed 18 in. to 2 ft. away from the main stem. This applies to young trees. With older trees, sever about 4 ft. away from the trunk. Use a sharp chisel or a fine-toothed saw, leaving the finer roots untouched.

In cutting away the branches of wall-trained, espalier or cordon fruit trees, care should be taken to use a thin, sharp knife or pruner sufficiently keen to make a clean cut. If the cut be left with a rough, fractured edge, the branch is liable to split, with disastrous results. For cutting thick branches, the fine-toothed pruning saw should be used, afterwards smoothing the saw-cut with the pruning knife and smearing it over with grafting paste, so as to prevent decay. This paste may be made by melting, over a slow fire, equal quantities of mutton fat and beeswax, with about four times the quantity of pitch. It should be applied warm, while it is sufficiently liquid to be spread with a brush. When it becomes necessary to cut off a substantial bough from a fruit or other tree, always start by sawing from the under side of the bough upward for a quarter of the way, and then complete the severance by sawing from the top. The reason for the under cut is to save splintering the bough and tearing the bark by a sudden break as would be the case if sawn from the top at the start; it is seldom practicable to support the portion to be severed. If there is exudation of sap, known as bleeding, the grafting paste mentioned above should be applied, a good coating being given. Proprietary pastes are also available. See also FRUIT TREES, APPLE and SHRUBS.

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