As we enter into December, more and more folks are beginning to think about pruning of trees and shrubs. As leaves are pretty much down at this point, you’re better able to assess shape and health of various trees and plants in your yard, and you may notice that some of your lower growing shrub plants are doing some fall shooting. Even if you aren’t going to prune anything now, the fact that you’re back out in the yard one last time raking (or hopefully blowing) the leaves up before you put away all your 2 cycle and other small engine outdoor power equipment (which you’re going to properly winterize to avoid gas/water problems caused by ethanol) means that you’re at least looking at your plants, so sub consciously, you will be thinking of pruning. (And if you’re not… maybe this article will get you thinking about it.)
Why Should I Worry about Pruning?
Pruning benefits the whole plant by removing specific branches and should be part of your regular maintenance schedule. Pruning has a lot of benefits:
- Helps the overall health and appearance of your tree and shrub
- Controls the size
- Rejuvenates old plants
- Helps with fruiting and flowering
Pruning can take place at any time, but the general rule of thumb is to prune after your tree or shrub has flowered. Local extension offices can give you more specific details when and how to prune. If you’re in our area, you should check out the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. They have tons of information about pruning techniques and tools.
Can’t I just use my Hedge Shears for Everything?
Like any project that you have, it really helps if you have the correct tool for that project. If you’ve ever looked through pruning tools at one of our stores or any lawn and garden retailer, you will probably get overwhelmed by the variation of the selection. We even carry various brands of the same product. We’ll often get asked ‘why should I pay $40 for this Pruner vs $25 for this Pruner?’
Well, the short answer we can give is that our professional landscapers know what they prefer. Quality to them is critical so that tool can remain useful everyday for several seasons. They know they need sharp tools that get the job done, and they also know they need something that is safe for them to use and won’t hurt after hours of use. Basically, you should worry about quality and durability before price.
But besides this, there really is need to have task specific hand pruners, lopping shears, pruning saws and other types of pruners or shears.
The tool that you will probably use most often is your hand pruner. They come in two basic types, bypass pruners and anvil pruners. Bypass hand pruners will give you a cleaner cut because the blade completely bypasses the anvil. The blade on an anvil pruner meets up with the anvil and will tend to crush the stem that you are cutting. When you crush the stem, it makes it more difficult for the plant to seal the wound. Anvil pruners tend to be less expensive because of the design, but with the variety of pruners now available, most people tend to select a bypass pruner. How often you will use the pruner should really determine which one you get.
Most of our landscapers will carry a pair of Felco Model 2 Bypass Pruning Shears. They are extremely sharp and meet the requirement for quality and durability. They have fully replaceable parts. You can replace nearly every part on a Felco pruner. The Felco 2 costs about $48, but because of its reliability and durability it is the tool of choice for many.
Stepping up from the hand pruners you have loppers. These have larger blades and longer handles, which allow you to cut larger branches because of the throat size of the blades and leverage from the handles. Loppers can have even more variety when you start comparing. You still have the option of having bypass and anvil style loppers, but it doesn’t stop there. You can have ratcheting gears to allow you to add to the strength of your cut. You can have fiberglass handles, steel handles or wood handles. You can buy loppers that have handles that extend for longer reach. Similar to hand pruners, you want to make sure that you have a tool that cuts clean in one action. Jagged cuts or cuts that crush the stem will make it more difficult for the plant to seal the wound and can increase the chance of disease. A good pair of loppers can cut 1/2 inch up to 1-1/2 inch. However, if you’re getting much larger than an inch, you should consider a good pruning saw.
Again the pruning saw of choice for most professionals is made by Felco. Felco makes what they call a Pull-Stroke Pruning Saw. The engineering that has gone into the saw blade ensures a rapid, clean and precise cut. Felco carries both a folding and fixed blade saw. The cutting action happens on its pull, and it makes for a very easy motion. Saws without this design can bind in the tree and take much more effort to cut. You can actually get pole pruners for cuts in higher sections of trees.
When cutting the tree, you’ll want to make sure that you remove any weight from the branch before cutting it close the the tree trunk. You should cut the tree further up the branch, to remove the load. This will reduce the chance of tearing right at the trunk which will be extremely difficult for the tree to seal.
An Expert Point of View at Pruning and Tools
When we started talking about doing this article, we thought of one of our long time customers who would be excellent to interview about pruning and tools. Patrick Mawhinney is owner of Prestige Shrub and Tree. Patrick was actually the first person who stepped through the doors at our Duluth store when we opened in 1985. Patrick holds a B.S. in Botany and a Master of Agriculture in Plant Pathology from Auburn University. He is also an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist (#SO-2347A), a Georgia Certified Plant Professional and a Georgia Lifetime Master Gardener. Prestige has been providing services in the Atlanta area since 1985, and their business has changed over the years. They don’t offer tree removal, pruning, planting or landscape planning anymore. They currently provide horticultural chemical application and fertilization programs for lawns, shrubs, trees in the Atlanta Area, and they offer large tree health assessments for the Atlanta area, too.
Again, you probably don’t want to be doing any heavy pruning in the fall and winter. We know that our weather in the Atlanta and North Georgia Area fluctuates and is very unpredictable. We’ve been having 70 degree days recently, but the weather experts are saying snow is in the forecast. However, you can do some simple clean up right now that will not affect flowering in the spring. If nothing else, think about how nice a Felco 2 hand pruner or Felco 600 pruning saw would look in that special someone’s Christmas stocking.