Time to sharpen tools, tackle pruning | Going Green

The annual growing season is well under way for trees and shrubs. Most will complete their new growth by late June to early July. As a result, some of your landscape may need a summer haircut

The annual growing season is well under way for trees and shrubs. Most will complete their new growth by late June to early July. As a result, some of your landscape may need a summer haircut.

If hiring the work to be done, lawn maintenance personnel are generally excellent at maintaining lawns and flower beds. However, many lack experience or supervision in applying proper pruning techniques to shrubs and trees.

I strongly recommend that a homeowner be present during any work if possible. Be certain to have a clear understanding of what you expect to be done and what the intentions are of a hired crew.

There are several experienced arborists and other professionals available for your pruning needs. Ask for references from a potential individual or lawn or tree service being considered.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, it is time to clean and sharpen the pruning tools and begin to plan your summer pruning chores.

The following tips will help homeowners create natural-looking trees and shrubs without affecting their long-term health and safety. Keep in mind that the most eye-pleasing results appear as if little has been done as opposed to severely topped or otherwise butchered trees.

First targets: Dead and badly diseased branches are easy to spot this time of the year. If practical, removal of these should be among your first duties.

Second targets: Remove branches that are crowding, pointing inward within a tree’s canopy or that look out of place.

Targeted branches should be cut back to the point where they join the main trunk or are attached to a larger branch.  Do not leave stubs because they will die back and not heal over.  Plus they are ugly. Cuts that are made at the point of attachment will eventually be covered with bark.

The too-often-brutalized flowering plums and other species are developing massive numbers of sprouts along trunks and branches. These may grow up to three or more feet per year. Ideally, many that can be reached should be removed soon as possible while they are still small and tender. Sprouts that may eventually fill a void should be retained.

Gentle tipping:  Sometimes a branch may too long and shortening may bring a tree’s crown into a more eye-pleasing balance. Make a cut if possible just beyond a twig or bud that is pointing in the direction you wish the future growth to occur. This will enable one to control the direction of the new growth. This technique will help a tree retain a natural look rather than develop a stubbed-off appearance or branches growing at strange angles.

Cutting larger branches: To avoid stripping bark or splitting branches that are more than one inch thick, make the first cut six or more inches out from the intended final cut. This will lighten the weight and allow for a clean cut when removing the remaining stub without tearing the bark.

Finessing Japanese Maples and Pine: Summer is a good time to remove dead wood and to thin the crowns to display the attractive twisting interior branches of Japanese maples. These branches form the “character” of a lace leaf maple and are vividly displayed during the fall and winter after the leaves have fallen.

When pruning the low-growing lace leaf varieties this time of year, it is sometimes easier to crawl underneath and prune from the inside out. First, snap off or cut the dead twigs. Then remove crossing interior branches that are growing against the natural flow of the foliage. Finally, continue to thin out smaller twigs that are crowding. This technique makes it easier to create openings that will display a tree’s exotic features.

When pruning mugho and other pines species and where size control is important, this is a perfect time to trim new growth. While I abhor hedge trimmers, they are appropriate for creating the sculpted look. If a more natural appearance is desired, then the expanding new growth can be trimmed by hand clippers.

So, have fun with your summer pruning chores.

Dennis Tompkins is a certified arborist, certified hazard tree risk assessor, Master Gardener and urban forester from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. Contact him at 253 863-7469 or email at dlt@blarg.net. Website: evergreen-arborist.com.