This is the time of year for earnest winter pruning; Wellfield staff are actively engaged in moving through trees and shrubs to accomplish several tasks associated with our winter pruning objectives. Many of our trees are young and are still receiving formative pruning to better improve branch structure in the future. We prune as much to improve light filtration, air circulation and appearance as we do to remove deadwood, downsize some plants already crowding their space or stimulate growth in a few instances.
One of my biggest pruning pet peeves are people who improperly locate their cuts. Depending on the size and age of the branch, it will never sprout again from the cut location, but instead will die off, leaving a place for disease to enter, because the tree could not heal over the wound properly. It also becomes an eyesore. The tree loses its natural form in favor of a dull, blunt appearance. In some cases, the tree will respond with even more shoots in the same location as the previous stubs, which then are cut badly with the resultant mass of ugly cuts. You will not be risking life and limb to cut back to the right location, so go ahead.
The other thing that drives me absolutely bonkers (not that it takes much), even more than stubs, are those individuals who cut off the ends of their large diameter trees and limbs, most often in an effort to keep a large tree within the bounds they have in mind for it. Topping a tree in such a fashion is rarely a good idea. Not only will the natural form of the tree never be seen again, but this technique can actually produce weak wood with a whole new set of problems. There is a time and place for pollarding a tree, a pruning process similar to topping, and this is not it. Also, only certain tree species respond to pollarding effectively.
Faithful readers of this blog may recall our Crimes Against Horticulture series; these photos will illustrate some of the crimes, and some of my solutions.
If you are feeling like you need a tune up or have never tackled this gardening task properly, we just happen to have an excellent (did I mention excellent?) two part Winter Pruning Workshop coming up this week! The VIRTUAL lecture portion will take place on Wednesday, March 10th at 4 p.m. and will be followed by an onsite, COVID compliant, hands-on outdoor lab Saturday, March 13 at 1 p.m. Click HERE to learn more and to register! All are invited to attend and get on the cutting edge of gardening knowhow.
Josh Steffen, Horticulture and Facilities Manager