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This superb guide uses specially commissioned color photographs and diagrams to clearly explain the basic pruning procedures. All the popular plants suitable for pruning or training are covered in the authoritative text. Diagrams and photographs combine to give a detailed visual reference of what a plant should look like before, during, and after pruning care.
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David Joyce is a writer and plant advisor with a passionate interest in plants and the history of their cultivation. His other books include The English Garden Tradition, Garden Styles, Hanging Baskets, Window Boxes and Containers and Windowbox Gardening.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Controlling the growth of plants and shaping them by pruning and training are often considered the most puzzling aspects of gardening. Sadly, many gardeners content themselves with a policy of random snipping or savage butchery rather than acquiring the relatively uncomplicated skills that can be so important in the successful cultivation of plants.
Those who have participated in the making of this book hope that the straightforward explanation of pruning and training procedures offered here, based on their professional experience, will encourage more gardeners to acquire these valuable skills. As well as explaining in text, diagrams, and photographs the major techniques of pruning and training, the book presents the specific requirements of ornamentals, tree fruits, and soft fruits, with particular reference to those grown in the temperate parts of the world.
The diagrams and photographs are seen as an important amplification of the text, but it must be recognized when using them as a guide that there can be considerable differences between individual specimens of plants. The age of wood is often a significant factor in pruning and therefore different tones of green have been used in the diagrams to distinguish one year's growth from another.
Many, indeed most, of the operations described in this book can be carried out by amateur gardeners, provided that they are equipped with the right tools. Large pruning cuts are dealt with in more detail on pages 43-5, but it is necessary to warn amateurs against undertaking almost all forms of tree surgery. Experienced and qualified tree surgeons should be employed to remove all large limbs and to undertake any major pruning requiring the use of power tools and ladders.
Pruning, training, and plant growth
In pruning a shoot or branch the gardener is interfering with the plant's own mechanism for controlling its development. On most woody plants each shoot ends in a terminal or apical bud, below which other buds are arranged in a pattern characteristic of the species, the position of the buds determining where branches will form. The arrangement may be alternate, opposite. spiral or whorled.
The apical bud is the growing point of the shoot and asserts its dominance by producing a chemical that inhibits growth of the buds below it. If the terminal bud is removed, whether pruned, pinched out (sometimes known as stopping), or broken off, the supply of the growth-retarding substance is interrupted. The relatively rapid growth of lateral shoots, known as "breaking", is quickly discernible in the case of a sub-shrub such as a fuchsia which has had its leading shoot pinched out. The same response, resulting in bushy growth, is produced by the frequent removal of terminal buds in hedge clipping.
In practice many pruning cuts are made to a specific bud or pair of buds below the tip of the shoot. Selecting a bud that will grow in the desired direction, usually out from the center of the plant, and cutting back to just above it is the key to the skilful shaping of most ornamentals and fruit-bearing bushes and trees. All cuts must be made with sharp clean tools (see pp. 214-15), for bruised or crushed stems and ragged edges can be points of entry for disease.
It is worth mentioning that woody plants compartmentalize wounds, including pruning cuts, as a defense against infection. It is now recognized that the old practice of flush cutting when removing limbs from trees and large shrubs destroys the plants' own lines of defense, and may lead to serious infection even when a wound forms a callus.
The severity of cutting back is another factor influencing plant growth. As a rule, pruning stimulates growth, and this is particularly true of pruning carried out in winter. It is an important point to grasp, and an apparent contradiction, that weak growth can be stimulated to grow vigorously by hard cutting back and that vigorous growth is best checked by light pruning. Repeated savage pruning of a problem plant that keeps outgrowing its space will simply encourage it to be more vigorous.
Another key fact that explains many pruning and training techniques is the tendency of stems near the horizontal to grow more slowly than those that are upright, but this check to growth stimulates the production of flower buds. This is exploited in the training of some ornamentals (rambling roses, for example, flower best with their stems trained laterally) and many fruit trees.
The reasons for pruning and training
It is sometimes argued that as plants in the wild are not pruned there is no need to prune them in the garden. In fact a wild plant is normally undergoing a continuous process of renewal, in which flowers, leaves, and twigs fall and, less frequently, branches are shed. Furthermore, the garden is not simply an unaltered segment of the natural world, but a managed environment in which selected plants are grown for specific ornamental effects or to produce crops.
Even when pruning is recognized as a necessity, it is often thought that its purpose is limited to reducing the size of plants that have grown too large, an idea that is sometimes associated with a vague notion that at some time in the year all plants need to be tidied up. Cutting back shoots and branches simply to keep a plant within an allotted space or to impose an arbitrary order is, however, a relatively crude use of pruning techniques. Although many plants may need occasional trimming of unruly growth and some plants are cut back regularly for special effects (as when eucalypts such as Eucalyptus gunnii are maintained in the juvenile form because of their attractive foliage), most plants that need hard cutting back to contain them are inappropriate for the position in which they are planted. Because pruning stimulates growth, the problem very often proves self-perpetuating.
The need for drastic surgery can be avoided by sensible planting. When choosing trees and shrubs, select cultivars according to their vigor as well as their ornamental value. When choosing fruit trees, consider the rootstock, which will determine the plant's vigor, as well as the merits of particular cultivars. The main aim of pruning and training, in contrast to the largely negative intention when plants are cut back in size, is to realize the maximum ornamental effect or to obtain the optimum yield of a crop. Many trees and shrubs, including some fruit trees, will give the desired results with only minor pruning once mature. Even these, however, generally require some initial training to form a well balanced framework.
Pruning cuts on young plants heal quickly and in many cases a framework of well spaced branches can be formed simply by removing a few poorly placed or weak growths. When growths are young and pliant, before they lignify, is also the time to train climbers and wall shrubs. Some forms of fruit trees may need long-term staking. Ornamental trees, however, should only be staked for the first year or two using a low stake, so that there is enough movement to promote the natural strengthening of the trunk as it grows.
The more restricted the form in which a plant is grown, the more rigorous the early training must be. It may take more than four or five years to build up the framework of an espaliered apple or a fan-trained peach and even longer to create a mature hedge, topiary specimen, or avenue of preached limes. A standard or pyramid of a sub-shrub such as a fuchsia can be built up much more quickly, but the speed of growth has to be matched by the frequency with which the growing points are pinched out. Restricted forms generally require regular pruning even in maturity. For example, apples and pears grown as cordons or other restricted forms need annual summer pruning. Hedges and topiary require clipping once and sometimes several times in a growing season.
Even most unrestricted forms of tree fruits and soft fruits require annual pruning to remain healthy and productive. Annual cutting out of old wood is also necessary to get the best re
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