Practicing Proper Pruning

On 20 March, my Master Gardener class was taught proper pruning techniques. Please do forgive me, I forget the names of the arborists who came to demonstrate to us. Ever since this class, I can't help but be disgusted and dismayed at the bad pruning I find everywhere in DC!

We learned how to identify branch collars and branch-bark ridges so we can make the best cut possible. We also practiced the three-part cut; this graphic shows a good, simple procedure. You start with an initial cut far above the branch collar on the bottom of the branch, then make a second cut a little bit further up on the top of the branch. This will break the branch, allowing you to remove most of the weight of the branch you're pruning without damaging the branch collar/branch-bark ridge. The initial cut on the bottom is to prevent the bark from tearing, which could distrupt the branch collar if it tears badly. The branch collar, or branch-bark ridge if the branch is older, is what "heals" the wound of the pruned branch--if it is damaged, the "healing" will take longer, and the tree might die before it's done. The final cut should be done carefully from the top down right next to the branch collar.

Here's my first bottom cut and my second cut, to remove the bulk of the weight of the branch from a crape myrtle that had been very poorly pruned before. (This piece of wood is after-the-fact--the little nubbin you get when you're done the pruning job. I saved it. Maybe I'll use it to mount an orchid?)

This is what I left behind--a smooth cut (although it's a tiny bit ragged at the very bottom--my broken collarbone made the sawing a little tricky). The black marks are from the blade, not any problem with the tree.

Here's an example of how the pruning on this tree had been done in a previous year. See how it's not "healed"? See how it looks like it's dying? Bad pruning!

The landscapers who "pruned" this previously just topped the crape myrtle--that means they took a big saw and chopped the entire tree down to eye level. You can see that some branch collars are trying to encompass the wounded tissue to prevent possible entrance of infection, but that several-inch-high piece of deadwood will take a very long time to encapsulate. Also, it looks ugly.

The other half of the class pruned magnolias. I nipped two cuttings and have them sitting in a cup of water.

One is the more bushy kind with the darker flowers--they're beautiful on one's windowsill!

This is the second one, the more treelike kind that opens up a bit sooner. I only hope that they'll root and I can have little potted pretties--the Internet and my horticulturalist friend tell me that the best time to snip magnolias for rooting is in the summer, and even then, it's an iffy endeavour. I am ever hopeful!

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One Response to Practicing Proper Pruning

  1. Did they show you how to Myrder the Crepe Myrtle tree yet, LOL?


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