Gardening - Common Sense Pruning - Part 3

By Daisy Sampson, in Lifestyle · 09-05-2013 11:21:00 · 0 Comments
Gardening - Common Sense Pruning - Part 3

Welcome back to my pruning mini-series using a simple and common sense approach to give you a little more confidence when using your loppers. This week, I am going to look at the larger specimens and suggest what’s best.

There is something very satisfying in buying a small tree sapling from the garden centre; nurturing it like it’s part of the family, giving it food and shelter, marvelling at how well it’s growing, boasting of its’ success to your friends and neighbours … Then its brought home at 4 in the morning by the GNR – oops sorry, wrong story!! Where was I? … Then you start to notice that as your ‘little baby’ is just starting to really grow and flourish and set down anchors, it’s beginning to spoil your sea or garden view, plus the little blighter has had the audacity to start lifting up your new calcada drive or patio. Now in this instance, grounding it for a month doesn’t actually help, for the obvious reasons! And if you were one of the unfortunate ones who were lulled into a false sense of security when you fostered this innocent looking little munchkin, believing that its pocket-sized cuteness would last forever, you could be sadly mistaken. A quick check on Google might well tell you that your ‘little’ treasure, is actually going to grow into a pepper or willow or another fast growing fine ‘beast’. Sadly, if this is the case, no forms of pruning are going to help and it’s often best to remove the usurper completely.
Hopefully, your trees are evenly spaced around your garden and your views are not too impaired; but even so, they do still need regular pruning to stay healthy and stable.
The Pepper Tree or Schinus Molle, is very common in our gardens in Portugal. Adored for its willow-like weep and pink ‘peppercorns’ that hang from its’ foliage, but it can become easily damaged from winds if it’s left to become top-heavy with too much canopy clutter. We should all know by now that any trees should be clear of severed branches, diseased and cross-over limbs, but when pruning your pepper tree, you want to keep the very graceful and weeping effect of the tree. I usually prune with shears approx. 1 metre maximum from the ground during the growing season to keep its’ falling grace. Take out any clumping or rubbing branches as this will only cause chafing and weaken its shape.
In the autumn, you can afford to be more adventurous with the loppers and thin out the canopy to give adequate air circulation and more protection from stormy weather in the winter.

If you must prune the height of the tree (which I don’t really recommend) then you will have to make several tactical cuts and step back and view each time, as you are in danger of losing the weeping effect if you are too over zealous.
Regarding the general Conifer family of trees; once again extensive pruning is not too necessary as these species tend to have a more vertical growing habit as opposed to the pepper tree who’s pattern tends to be a more horizontal spread. For these trees I recommend keeping one main central leading trunk – if you allow your cypress trees to form leader or double trunks they will lose their pyradimal or characteristic shape. So when pruning, make sure you keep its shape intact and if you have to make any ruthless cuts, try to refrain from doing it until after the autumn, as conifers will produce a ‘bleeding’ resinous sap that will ooze from the stems during its active growth. If, however, you are not happy with its’ height, it will need to be topped, and once this is done, it can be more contained and you will end up with a bushier specimen which can then be looked upon and treated as a hedge specimen. Try to make this decision before it grows too big, as they can look very ugly for some time once this lopping has taken place, so forward planning will make all the difference in this instance.
Finally, something that shouldn’t be pruned really at all is your Norfolk Island Pine or Arucaria Heterophylla, which will grow very large into a pyramid or conical form. They are stunningly architectural but if you prune off heavily the horizontally tiered branches, you can ruin it and give it a disjointed look, so its best left alone. Oh – but just a word of warning, if this is the cute little baby you acquired from the garden centre – it will grow to a height of 30 metres and take up nearly 150sqm of root volume!!
So, there you have a little taster of tree pruning, which again is partly about using your loaf as well as your pruning shears. To wrap up the pruning mini-series, next week a little more delicacy is needed as we step into the rose garden.
See you next time.


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