Pruning Ornamental Trees

We hear a great deal about pruning, so much, indeed, that the subject often sounds very perplexing. Let us try to simplify it, first by explaining the reasons why we prune.

As far as the pruning of ornamental trees is concerned the objective is to produce nice, shapely specimens that look attractive even when bare of leaves. We grow these to become standards, that is, to have a crown of branches on top of a clean stem or trunk, perhaps 6 ft. or more tall. All side shoots on this stem must, therefore, be removed. But the leading shoot, the natural growing point, must not be cut back. We want to aim for a stem- eventually the trunk – arising from ground level and carrying through gracefully to the top of the tree. It is an aim that admittedly cannot always be fulfilled, as, for example, the upper part of crab apples generally and unavoidably becomes a bit of a tangle. But this should always spread from the top of a clean stem.Pruning Ornamental Trees

As to the actual operation of pruning, the main objective is to make as clean a cut as possible, close up to the stem (but not damaging it) so that the bark can gradually spread over and heal the wound. Do not let the piece you are cutting off come away and tear bark with it. If the shoot you are cutting off is stout and heavy, shorten it first so as to avoid its weight tearing it away. If the wound you leave is large-say an inch or more in diameter – it is as well to paint it with one of the special proprietary paints. Infection can quickly take hold, particularly in the growing season.

Suckers coming up from the bottom of a tree must always be removed; it is quite possible that they come from the quite different stock on which your tree was grafted or budded.

So much for young trees-except perhaps when two branches have grown together so that they rub, which is undesirable. The least important must be removed.

When it comes to dealing with large branches on big trees, it is essential to leave this to a qualified tree surgeon. It needs most careful judgement to effect a good job and can be dangerous to an unskilled operator as well as, perhaps, causing damage to passersby or neighbouring property.

Pruning Shrubs

When we come to the pruning of shrubs, to some extent the main principles apply. But the essence of a shrub is its growth which rarely arises from a leader but normally from a cluster of shoots at the base. There is the matter of pruning just to tidy up the shoots when they have become untidy-mere commonsense, bearing in mind that most shrubs send up new shoots naturally from the base.

There are, however, two underlying rules to follow when shrub pruning.

  1. Firstly, some kinds flower mostly on wood that was produced and ripened in the past year; that wood must be retained.
  2. Secondly, a considerable number flower on shoots that have grown during the current year-that is, you cut them hard back early in the spring.

These peculiarities are mentioned in the individual descriptions of shrubs and trees.

The craft of pruning is mostly easily learned by seeing examples of it that have been well done. Today, so often (but not always) this is carried out in local parks, visits to which are always worth while.

Always use sharp secateurs and well sharpened pruning saws.

The Waste Corner

Many gardens have awkward bits of land, often sloping and dry, perhaps shaded by trees when the sun shines and which drip when it rains. They are spots in which practically none of the ordinary run of garden plants, except a few snowdrops-will thrive.

However, there are several shrubby plants not exciting enough for the garden itself, that will grow quite happily in such places, spreading when once established, and giving quite a lot of interest.

Generally, in such places, all that grows naturally is rough grass. To establish plants, good patches of this are killed by spraying with one of the herbicides. As soon as the grass is killed, this ground is dug over and clumps of the following plants established. As this spot is sure to be dry, water them well until they have taken hold.

First, one would choose the Oregon grape, Mahoma aquifohum. This was brought here in 1823 from California, by the plant collector David Douglas. With the typical prickly leaves, which colour well in autumn, its spikes of yellow flowers opening in earliest spring followed by little purple grape-like fruit with a grey bloom, it so excited gardeners that for a few years after its arrival plants were sold at ten guineas a time. Then it was found that it would grow anywhere, spreading freely, and though the plant was just as beautiful, the price tumbled.

Rose of Sharon, Hypericum calycinum, is a low growing evergreen shrub that steadily spreads around by means of runners. Because it will thrive anywhere, under any conditions, it has been pushed into waste corners. If it was a new plant, the large yellow flowers which open at about midsummer, would cause it to be all the rage.

In wild, rough places, and often in neglected hedgerows, another shrub, the snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus (sometimes called S. racemosa) will be found. This, an erect growing, slender, suckering, shrub of about 6 ft., is ideal for wasteland. It is quite common for the reason that pheasants are reputed to like the berries. These are fleshy, oval and white, 4 in. or so long, with a sparkling crystalline surface. They are a joy to flower arrangers in autumn, and follow the tiny pink flowers in June and July which one usually notices because of the myriads of bees collecting their nectar.

The dwarf Cotoneaster dammeri (humifiesa) needs a certain amount of light. This is an evergreen, of dense, twiggy growth with glossy green leaves about 4 in. long; self-sown seedlings often arise. But its value for the garden wasteland is that it lies flat on the ground, its shoots curving to conform with the contours. One plant will very soon cover a square yard and more.

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