Pruning Flowers and Shrubs

A most lucrative area of income is pruning of shrubs, hedges, rose bushes and small fruit trees.

Safety is of greatest importance when working on trees and shrubs. If you use a chainsaw, you should be aware of all safety issues, always wear the appropriate safety clothing and never operate a chainsaw without a license.

Pruning Tools

Secateurs: Bypass types are best since they do not crush wood as much as the anvil types. Buy a robust pair that is comfortable for your hands. Felco are the best, but also one of the most expensive. Even so, most professional gardeners will not consider using anything but Felco.

Look Felco up on the internet to see their full range. Buying over the internet can work out much cheaper, or buy from a show to get show prices.

Lopper: Again, purchase the bypass types. These are long-handled secateurs that are extremely useful for cutting branches from 1 to about 5 cm in diameter. They save a great amount of time over saws and are also useful for getting into tight places. Many brands are available, including Felco. Make certain you buy a pair with rubber stops between the handles, to lessen work stress. (Incl. in start up package)

Saw: Pruning saws are very worthwhile tools as long as you purchase the correct types and keep them clean & sharp. Buy any of the curved-blade saws, but avoid the bow saw types (extremely difficult to use in tight spots). Pruning saws cut on the pull stroke, and are practical for cutting wood up to about 10cm in diameter. There are many good brands on the market, and many of the folding saws are excellent for all-round use. (Incl. in start up package)

If your customers want hedges cut, invest in a good 2′ stroke hedge cutter. Buy the best you can and keep them well maintained and they will last for many years.

Pruning Principles

A healthy plant will wound over best without any additional treatments of a pruning heal paint. These, even though some may be anti-bacterial, have gone out of fashion and the thinking now is to let nature heal the plant. Some schools of thought say they can seal disease in. Often when you prune, the removal of   growth  from the top of the plant will stimulate  growth  either from the base or from buds lower down on the branches. This is all to do with apical dominance which you will learn about on your Hadlow training course. In most cases this is advantageous, as it gives the full shape homeowners wish.

With some plants like fruit trees this can be a problem, since undesirable watershoots grow from the base of the pruning cuts, making the plant even more difficult to manage. Whenever you prune, consider the  growth  that the pruning will stimulate and prune for next year?s  growth  – not just for today.

The main pruning rule is to prune after flowering, as the plant will be able to put on  new   growth  to flower on next year. BUT DO NOT USE THIS RULE WITHOUT CHECKING THE PLANT.

You must be very careful to check what plant it is you are pruning as some plants flower on the previous years  growth  and some on the same year or even on two year old wood.

There is no loss of face in keeping a pruning book in the van and checking before you prune, only fools would not do this. One of the best gardeners I know always carries the RHS pruning guide in his van.

Some plants require pruning more than once a year like roses and wisteria.

Remember that if you do not check when and how the plant can and should be pruned you may cause the plant to die by bleeding to death or allowing disease to infect the plant. For instance, you should never prune any plant in the Prunus genus in the autumn or winter, only in the summer when in full sap flow. Pruning them in the winter will leave them open to a disease called silver leaf and bacterial canker.

Why prune and types of pruning

As stated above, pruning often stimulates  new   growth  in plants to give more flowers and fruits and to encourage plants to bush out. Also, pruning is very important if dead or diseased wood is present so it can be removed.

Pruning can also be used to reduce plant size when space is limited, and lighten a dense canopy of  growth .

Plants like roses and other flowering plants only flower to produce seed so they can reproduce. When they have flowered they will stop as seed has been produced, so by removing the dead flowers before they start to produce seed they will need to produce more flowers. This dead-heading can prolong flower production for months longer than they would otherwise do.

When you prune make sure your secateurs are sharp as a clean cut heals faster than a ragged one. Also a blunt pair of secateurs may crush the stem and damage the plant.