See E. P. Christopher, The Pruning Manual (1954); R. L. Hudson, The Pruning Handbook (1973); C. Brickell, Pruning (1979).
Pruning in landscaping and gardening is the practice of removing diseased, non-productive, or otherwise unwanted portions from a plant. The purpose of pruning is to shape the plant by controlling or directing plant growth, to maintain the health of the plant, or to increase the yield or quality of flowers and fruits. Proper pruning is as much a skill as it is an art, since badly pruned plants can become diseased or grow in undesirable ways.
Proponents of pruning often argue that it improves the health of the plant and makes sturdier structure, opponents believe that pruning harms plants' "natural" forms and leads to wounding which may become infected.
In general the smaller the wound (smaller the branch that is cut) the less harm to the tree. It is therefore better to formative prune the tree when juvenile than try to cut off large branches on a mature tree.
There are also inconsistencies pertaining to pruning. How you would prune a rose, shrub, hedge, fruit tree and an amenity tree may be different.
Consequences with incorrect pruning performed to large trees can be dangerous. If a shrub was incorrectly pruned and a piece broke off it may not do much damage. However if a tree next to the house was incorrectly pruned and a large branch fell from 50 feet (about 15 metres) it could be deadly.
Branch structure and how they are attached to each other in trees falls into 3 categories. Collared unions, collarless unions and codominant unions. Each specific attachment has its own unique way of being cut so that the branch has less chance of regrowth from the cut area and best chance of sealing over and compartmentalising decay. This means that there are 3 types of cuts made, whether that be to remove a little branch coming of another or cutting a whole branch off back to the trunk. This term is often referred to by arborists as "target cutting".
Some of the terms used predominantly by arborists and what they entail:
Removing a portion of a growing stem down to a set of desirable buds or side-branching stems. This is commonly performed in well trained plants for a variety of reasons, for example to stimulate growth of flowers, fruit or branches, as a preventative measure to wind and snow damage on long stems and branches, and finally to encourage growth of the stems in a desirable direction. Also commonly known as heading-back.
In orchards, fruit trees are often lopped to encourage regrowth and to maintain a smaller tree for ease of picking fruit. The pruning regime in orchards is more planned and the productivity of each tree is an important factor.
Deadheading is the act of removing spent flowers or flowerheads for aesthetics, to prolong bloom for up to several weeks or promote rebloom, or to prevent seeding.
The general rule to pruning is to always cut in a location where growth will occur, whether the cut is next to a bud or another branch. Cutting a branch beyond where growth will occur effectively kills all portions of that branch back to the closest branch, bud, or dormant bud clusters, leaving a stub of dead wood. The withered stub will eventually rot away and fall off. Prior to that, however, it will prevent the plant from forming a callus over the cut surface, which will in turn invite insects and infection. All cuts should be relatively smooth since this will aid in healing.
Also, the pruning cut should not be too large when compared to the growing point. For instance, a large cut on a 20 cm trunk down to a 15 cm branch should be fine, but the same cut to the trunk down to a 1 cm twig or bud is considerably less ideal and should be avoided if possible.
When using pruning shears or loppers to remove a branch back to a main branch, the "hook" portion of the shears should always face away from the main branch. This ensures that the blade will not leave a protruding stub and the hook will not damage the branch collar or parts of the main branch.
Some woody plants that tend to bleed profusely from cuts, such as maples, or which callous over slowly, such as magnolias, are better pruned in summer or at the onset of dormancy instead. Woody plants that flower early in the season, on spurs that form on wood that has matured the year before, such as apples, should be pruned right after flowering, as later pruning will sacrifice flowers the following season. Forsythia, azaleas and lilacs all fall into this category.
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