Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi The Demystification of Pruning

By Amy Currens

MARCH 1, 1999:  Pruning is a skill. It is as important as getting your hair trimmed or cutting your fingernails. Pruning is a skill that should be admired, respected and, above all, attempted. But it is an intimidating art for many people as they watch their beautiful roses, bushes, fruit trees and shrubs wither and die due to bad maintenance or none at all. Get outside and take off the dead branches, flowers and suckers; it's a wonderful beginning and will give your plants a fighting chance. Going beyond that is necessary for maximizing growth in general. The cuts are important without being too difficult to master. Suckers (shoots rising from the rootstock) and canes (bramble or vine growth) on bushes of all kinds need to be pruned as soon as possible. What looks to be useless in the aesthetic of the plant is probably sucking water and vital nutrients away from the main part of the plant, the part that actually needs care. Do not be afraid to cut these types of culprits all the way down to their source at the base of branches. Most bushes feed on growth and wood that is no more than a year old, so pruning is necessary to keep plants strong and well nourished. Once you know how and when to cut, you are home free. Here is a condensed table that should help everyone when it comes to pruning.

Plant When How
Butterfly Bush Early spring Cut out all dead wood. Remove some old branches and head-in as necessary to keep plant properly shaped.
Forsythia After flowering Remove a few older branches at the ground each year and head back new growth as necessary.
Honeysuckle Bush After fruiting Cut some old branches. Keep bush open.
Lilac After flowering Remove diseased and scaly growth (charming descrip- tion, isn't it?) and cut off old flower heads and surplus sucker growth.
Rose Spring after frosts Cut away all dead and weak growth and shorten remaining branches to 4 buds--or 5 if it is a vigorous variety. (The cuts on roses should be at about a 45 degree angle. If the angle is too severe or the cut is made too far/close to the bud, it will not produce thriving results.)
Climbing Rose After flowering Cut about one-half of old growth at the ground and retain vigorous new shoots from the root for next year's flowers. Head back as necessary.
Trumpet Vine Early spring Prune side branches severely to main stem.
Virginia Creeper Spring Clip young plants freely. Older plants require little pruning, except to remove dead growth.
Wisteria Spring Cut back new growth to the spurs at the axils of the leaves. This can be repeated mid-summer.

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