Monday 23 January 2017

Prune trees carefully to reclaim the lost spaces

Published 01/01/2012 | 05:00

NOW that deciduous trees are leafless, it is much easier to see the structure and shape of the plant and this greatly facilitates pruning. Not that pruning is at all essential, but it may be necessary in some circumstances.

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The usual circumstances are where a garden tree has grown too wide and it is shading the lower-growing shrubs and flowers. It is possible to take out some of the lower branches and allow light to reach ground-level plants.

The side branches on relatively young trees are light and pose no threat to the person pruning. Most of this light pruning can be done with a bow saw or even a lopping shears. These tools are safe for use by a non-professional.

However, when a chainsaw is needed, great care must be taken. In general, it is best that only professionals should tackle pruning jobs heavy enough for a chainsaw to be used. The householder engaging the services of a tree professional should satisfy themselves as to the contractor's insurance cover.

The lower branches of many trees and large-growing shrubs can be pruned up. Apart from allowing light to reach shady spots, this pruning also reduces the amount of space taken up a tree or large shrub, and pruning allows better access to flower borders, and to the garden in general.

To prune up a tree or large old shrub when dormant is quite straightforward. Simply stand back and try to identify the branches to be removed and perhaps consider removing all light branches up to a height of one metre, or two metres or more for taller plants.

Begin pruning by taking out some of the light branches to allow access to large branches. But be careful to leave branches if they are likely to support the crown canopy of the tree above the point where the pruning is stopped. It is fine to have multiple stems on trees and shrubs, and branches from those stems on some kinds.

Cutting the dense light lower branches will allow in enough light even if some of the heavier ones above them are kept. Most kinds of trees and tall shrubs can be pruned now, including broadleaved evergreens.

Trees in the cherry family should not be pruned until summer to reduce the chances of disease attack through cut surfaces.

Pruning up is the opposite to tree-topping. Low pruning retains the shape and character of the tree but reclaims lost space, whereas topping spoils its character and appearance and can render it susceptible to disease.

Sunday Independent

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