Pruning Trees and Shrubs

Pruning Trees and Shrubs

Part of Ep. 1304 Sticks and Twigs

Janesville Rotary Gardens Horticulturist Mike Maddox demonstrates how the cold season is the perfect time to prune trees and shrubs.

Premiere date: Dec 25, 2005

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
As a gardener, I’ve really come to appreciate winter. There are no weeds to worry about and I don’t have to fertilize anything. Welcome to the “Wisconsin Gardener.” I’m your host, Shelley Ryan.

I really enjoy the rest that winter gives me. But you know, gardeners can’t go completely dormant. There are lots of winter activities and we’re going to focus on some today like pruning. It’s a great time to prune trees and shrubs. We’ll also show you how to create more trees and shrubs by grafting. Jeff Epping of Olbrich Gardens will show us how. Winter is also a fun time to get creative. We’ll make faerie furniture using all the pruned sticks and twigs. Finally, an indoor project that’s just perfect, creating a tabletop fountain. They’re easy to make and guaranteed to drive away the winter blues. So, stay tuned for the “Wisconsin Gardener.”

Many gardeners think there’s nothing much to do outside when there’s snow on the ground. Wrong! This is the best time of year to prune late winter, early spring. That’s what we’re going to do today. I’m with Mike Maddox. Mike is an Extension Agent based at Rotary Gardens.

Mike Maddox:
I’m happy to be in your yard.

Shelley:
Hey, I’m glad to have you. I’ve got lots of work that could be done.

Mike:
You sure do. I’d like to talk about three types of work you need to do. One-third rejuvenation pruning on our shrubs, complete rejuvenation and then heading back on some of our shrubs.

Shelley:
Well, I know we’re going to do a one-third on my Red Osher Dogwood. Let’s start there.

Mike:
Yeah, this is a great looking shrub. The first thing that I want to do to it is clean out the dead in the center.

Shelley:
So anything that isn’t alive, for a beginner that’s easy to start with.

Mike:
Clean it out. It brings the disease and insect pests to your shrubs so we want to get rid of that, but then we want to take a look at the one-third of the largest stems. This shrub really thrives off having the new growth come from the bottom. This larger stuff can be a bit diseased. So you want to remove that. That helps keep the height in check and keeps the growth coming from the bottom being the more vigorous growth the most colorful growth and more flowers.

Shelley:
When we’re cutting on these, we really need to remember that we’re helping the shrub.

Mike:
We’re helping it. Again, remove the dead and then come in with a saw or a pair of loppers to remove some of these larger stems at the base.

Shelley:
Right down to the ground.

Mike:
Right down to the ground.

Shelley:
You said a one-third rejuvenation, so we’re taking out one-third of these older branches.

Mike:
Of the larger branches. It’s not going to be a drastic change to the shrub this year. But over time, you’ll rejuvenate it. If you’re wanting something quickly, then come in with a complete rejuvenation and remove it all.

Shelley:
That’s down to the ground, nothing.

Mike:
Then, you’ll be depending on the new growth coming up this spring to give you that red color that you want from your shrub. You can also do it with lilacs. They’ll respond very well to this type of pruning.

Shelley:
For a beginner, it might be "faith pruning." You really have to believe it’s going to come back.

Mike:
You’ll have to be brave.

Shelley:
Again, it’s a decision; I have lilacs along the road. They’re messy and crowded, but if I took them all down I would lose my entire shade and shelter along the road.

Mike:
You have to see what your needs are from the shrub and make your pruning decision based on that.
Shelley:
With this one is going to look great when you’re done. Let’s talk about heading back.

Mike:
Here we have another dogwood.

Shelly:
This is my Cornelian Cherry Dogwood. It’s actually, if you look at the buds it’s very close to blooming.

Mike:
Well, there’s a big difference between this one and the one we just saw. The other one had a lot of suckers at the base. This one has a central leader. It’s more of a tree form.

Shelley:
Is that how to tell which way to prune it?

Mike:
This one wouldn’t be very responsive to a rejuvenation. It’d be dead! We want to prune it more like a tree. To do that, head back to a lateral branch, that is, a smaller branch coming off a main branch or back to the trunk.

Shelley:
What do you mean by heading back, then?

Mike:
Well, that means we just cut back to the main part of the trunk to give it a good clean cut that can heal over. Again, we’re looking for diseased or insect-infested branches. We’re also looking for branches that give the tree poor architecture or bad shape.

Shelley:
We’re trying to encourage the tree form. This one’s bending up kind of in wierd spots. Again, this is something-- What other trees and shrubs would you put into this category?

Mike:
The first one that comes to mind is Burning Bush. That one wouldn’t be responsive to a rejuvenation pruning. You can prune that one to be a nice tree form and it’d still be a shrub.

Shelley:
So, really look around our yard. If we see things suckering up with lots of multiple stems that’s the one-third renewal pruning.

Mike:
Yes, rejuvenation. If it’s tree-like, don’t do the rejuvenation pruning. Come in and do some good clean cuts along the trunks and branches with a saw or a pair of loppers.

Shelley:
"Lateral" meaning things that are coming out at right angles from the branch. Mike, I’ve got a lot more shrubs in my yard. I’d take some advice on those.

Mike:
I’ll show you how you can do it.

Shelley:
Darn! Thanks.

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