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Pruning includes not only the cutting back or removal of sound branches but also the taking out of dead and diseased wood. The purpose in pruning flowering shrubs is to secure the maximum amount of good quality blooms, well coloured fruits in berrying shrubs and balance and shapeliness in ornamental trees.
Pruning unavoidably wounds the tissue and provides a possible source of disease infection. All cuts must therefore heal as rapidly as possible, so always use a sharp knife or secateurs and paint over any wounds exceeding z in. diameter with white lead paint or one of the proprietary materials such as Medo (Murphy). You will need some or all of the following: A Sharp Knife for small shoots and trimming rough cuts left by the saw. Prices vary according to weight and quality of steel. Get the best you can afford. A Pruning Saw for getting between branches. Some have saws each side (of different cuts), others fold into a handle.
Secateurs. Buy a good easily-handled pair. The Rol-cut has easily replaceable parts and good balance, whilst the Wilkinson Knife Cut Pruner effectively cuts shoots and branches up to in. diameter. The blades are rust-proof. For out-of-the-way branches use long arm loppers or for very thick branches the heavy weight Toggle Lopper.
Remove dead or diseased branches right back beyond the source of infection. Do it at any time of the year, and at the first sign of trouble.
Most trees should have an open centre, so
that light can reach all the branches. Cut away any rubbing, crossing or badly placed branches, if possible during the winter months. Watch out the dreaded Silver Leaf diesase in ornamental Plums, Cherries, Almonds, Portuguese Laurel, Poplars and even Rhododendrons. Since this disease is active in winter, major operations in an affected district may have to be carried out during the summer (before mid-Jan.).
Many shrubs benefit from being cut back occasionally. Take off the top to a shoot lower down on the branch. You may lose a season's flowering, but the result will be a better and more shapely shrub. Philadelphus, Lilac and Climbing Roses particularly benefit from this attention.
Pruning Deciduous Shrubs
After taking routine measures, pruning of deciduous shrubs and climbers will mainly be related to the season of flowering.
1. Those which flower and fruit on the new wood.
These bloom on wood made in the same calendar year and flower comparatively late in the season. Examples: Ceanothus, `Gloire de Versailles', Tamarix pentandra, Clematis jackmannii, Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora, Buddleia variabilis and its varieties, Leycesteria and many Spiraeas, especially the variety `Anthony Waterer'.
Prune in late winter. Old shrubs which have grown large enough should be cut back really hard, to within an inch or so of the old wood; Buddleia and Clematis particularly benefit from this treatment. For smaller specimens remove the ends of the shoots.
2. Those which flower early in the season on the wood they made the year before.
Examples: Viburnum, Rondeletia, Flowering Peach, Forsythia, Clematis montana, Weigelias and Spiraea arguta. Prune these as soon as the blossoms have faded. The old flowering wood is either tipped (with small specimens) or taken back almost to the previous year's growth.
3. Those flowering on old wood.
Many of these require little or no pruning, for they flower on the same old timber year after year. Examples: Azaleas, Cistus, Cotoneasters, Daphnes, Witch-hazels, Magnolias, Cercis siliquastrum, the Judas Tree, Hibiscus and Paeony.
Shorten these back, however, preferably in early spring, if they become too large or are damaged by frost. Always cut just above a shoot growing lower down on the branch, or take the branch right out at ground level or where it joins the trunk in the case of a tree.
4. Those flowering in summer on wood of the previous year.
These need little pruning beyond an occasional thinning of the branches, the removal of weak twigs and an occasional shortening back of leggy shoots. Examples: Ribes, Philadelphus and some Spiraeas.
5. Plants with Coloured Bark.
Examples: Cornus (Dogwoods) with gold, red or violet stems, Rubus flagelliflorus and R. biflorus. Cut back almost to ground level in August.
Evergreens hold their leaves all winter but refrain from making new shoots at that time. Pruning should therefore coincide with the production of new growth, in most cases about September.
7. Pruning Hedges.
These should be pruned hard in early years to encourage thick growth at the bottom of the hedge. Once the stems run high and straggling they never thicken properly lower down.
Fully grown hedges are usually clipped in Oct. or Nov. although they may be tackled earlier. Photinia is pruned about August and again in November.
Flowering hedges should be dealt with after blooms are finished. Climbing plants on walls, like Ivy, should be clipped with the shears in Sept. and long, loose shoots removed with the secateurs in Jan. Secateurs, not shears, should also be used on hedges made up from large-leaved plants like Laurels.