Proper pruning produces beautiful landscapes

By Eric Barrett

OSU Ext. educator

Pruning is one of the most-rewarding jobs in the garden. But not all of us enjoy it, probably due to fears of removing blooms or destroy- ing a beautiful part of our landscape. Do not fear. We can help you make great pruning decisions and enjoy the process.

First understand the difference between pruning and shearing: Pruning is making selective cuts; shearing is cutting all branches/stems back to the same level. Shearing is not always the best way to reduce branching and growth. Most of the time, it causes more harm than good.

Pruning is an art form, but there is science behind where and when to cut. Pruning takes time. It stimulates dormant buds to break, forming new growth. Bad pruning cannot be fixed in one season, or even two. Whether we prune for shape, size, fruit or just to remove broken branches, you must use the correct tools. Bypass pruners are for live growth. They have a blade that slides past a solid piece of metal to make a clean cut, similar to scissors, but with more strength. An anvil pruner presses the blade into the center of a solid piece of metal. This makes a crushing cut on live growth, but does a nice job breaking off dead stems and branches.

When deciding on the proper tool, remember the size of the stem or branch you are cutting. Smaller diameters require a smaller pair of pruners. If you are straining to cut, the tool is too small. Pruning saws are a great investment and a much-easier cutting tool for larger branches.

Before starting, know what will happen after you make the cut. If buds break next spring, in what direction will they grow? If shearing the hedge for the fifth year in a row, will there be any green growth or blooms next year? Can the hedge be properly trimmed using selective pruning? Practice makes perfect. Try your skills on forgiving plants or shrubs, not your prize plants. Make a limited number of cuts, then return in a few days to decide if any more cuts are needed. Learn more and get hands-on practice at our Fall Pruning Clinic on Sept. 10 at Boardman Park. Visit

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