February and March offer the best window to prune many shrubs and trees, shaping their growth, renewing them, and correcting any diseased or damaged wood while the plant is bare.
I wrote this essay, ‘Pruning’ about a month after beginning this ‘Forest Garden’ blog. It is deeply buried in the archives, and yet its message remains absolutely current. I’ve cleaned it up a bit with some new photos, but left the text exactly as written nearly six years ago.
I hope you will enjoy this meditation on pruning, on a gardeners’ philosophy of life, and on the relentless flow of change which shapes us all, renews us, and keeps us strong.
Pruning is hard for me. I am always reluctant to cut away bits of a living plant. And yet I’ve learned that the cutting away nearly always catalyzes new growth; usually more vigorous and productive than what was removed.
Biologically, when a stem or branch is cut back, the plant releases hormones which activate all of the growth nodes further back down the plant so they begin to send out new shoots. When you cut a stem of basil, two new branches will grow back from just below the cut, but new branches will also begin to grow where none were before along the rest of the stem. Soon the plant has filled out with lush new growth.
When you remove spent flowers, the plant is mobilized to produce more buds and blossoms to replace them in the hopes of eventually setting seeds. All flower gardeners…
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Many find pruning to be difficult, which is part of why I do so much of it. I know how to do it properly, and have not problem doing it.
However, I would have a problem pruning that tree in the second picture. What is it, and what happened to it?