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Introduction To Tree Pruning

Part 1

Ornamental and shade trees can be an important part of a total landscaping project. Not only do they have an overall aesthetic landscaping value (Figure A), but with careful positioning they can provide important shade for relaxation and to lower cooling costs in the summer.

Figure A - Home using trees as part of the landscaping

Tree Pruning:

Trees can, if properly cared for, last for decades. To maintain sturdy, vigorous and eye-catching trees it is important that they be pruned. The key to proper tree pruning is to know:

  • Why it is important to prune your trees,
  • When it is the best time to prune your trees,
  • The proper methods of pruning trees.

With some basic knowledge you can easily prune your own trees.

Why Prune Ornamental & Shade Trees:

There are five primary reasons to prune shade and ornamental trees:

  1. Safety:
  2. As trees grow, some branches may become damaged or be in a position that if they were to fall they could injure an individual, as shown in Figure 1, or cause damage to one's home. As well, trees can become safety hazards as they grow, because they can start to block ones ability to see oncoming traffic when exiting driveways, obstruct ones view of sidewalks and become a entwined in overhead power and telephone lines.

    Figure 1 - Pruning trees for safety reasons

    The initial choice of ornamental or shade trees can all but alleviate the need for pruning for safety purposes. Choose trees that will suit the area where they are planted, now and in the future.

  3. Health:
  4. All plants, including ornamental and shade trees, develop diseases and have insect infestation at times. Proper pruning can aid in removing and helping to eliminate these problems. Thinning the crown of a shade tree, as shown in Figure 2, will have the affect of increasing air movement between branches, which will in turn reduce some insect problems. This type of pruning includes removing branches that cross and rub against other branches.

    Figure 2 - Pruning trees for health reasons

    Pruning the crown will provide an overall stronger tree which in turn will reduce the damage effects caused by inclement weather. While pruning broken and damaged branches will prevent diseases from forming in these locations on the tree.

  5. Aesthetics:
  6. It would be very nice if ornamental and shade trees, as they grow, created a perfect form. However, in reality trees do not grow perfectly. When pruning for aesthetics (Figure 3) the homeowner is creating a tree form that suits its environment.

    Figure 3 - Pruning trees for aesthetics

    This type of pruning also inspires and balances flower production. It should be noted that aesthetic pruning is even more important on open-grown trees, because in may cases they do not prune themselves adequately.

    Mother nature provides ornamental and shade trees with the ability to shed branches that are not forming properly. When a tree sheds a branch naturally it seals the joint, to protect against disease and insect infestation, with woundwood, as shown in Figure 4.

    Figure 4 - Woundwood formed on a tree trunk

    However, branches that are weak and fall off due to inclement weather generally do not seal properly. Proper pruning of damaged tree limbs can allow the tree to produce a proper woundwood seal adding to the life of the tree dramatically.


Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8