The older I get, the more work it takes to make me look presentable. I find that I have to get up earlier in the morning to get myself ready to go out and greet the world. I also take more time at night getting myself cleaned up. If this keeps up I will get to the point where I may never go the bed -- I will just stay up all night getting ready.
This is why I like things that help me look better. I really appreciate the man who cuts my hair. Lenn Dukes does such a good job cutting my hair that it looks good immediately after it is cut. My hair looks great and does not even look like it has been clipped. I like a hair cut that makes me look better without looking like I have been worked on.
You can give your landscape similar help. Plants are growing now and need a little shaping. If you prune properly, your plants will look better without looked clipped.
There are two types of pruning cuts -- shearing that takes off the tips of the branches and thinning that removes entire branches by cutting them off deeper inside the plant. Shearing tends to make plants thicker while thinning allows plants to keep their original shape. We shear plants that we want to shape into particular forms, but if you want to prune a plant without making it look clipped -- use a thinning cut.
You can use thinning cuts to shape plants or to make them smaller while retaining the natural shape. To reduce the size of plants through thinning, select and prune the longest branches. Follow them back into the interior of the plant and cut them off inside the plant where the cut will not be seen. Continue to cut off these branches until the plant is the correct size and shape. This is best done with a pair of hand shears.
When pruning shrubs, allow the shrub to be wider at the base than at the top. This keeps the base of the plant from losing all its leaves.
Thinning can be used for shrubs and trees. For trees, I like to get into the interior of the tree where I can see the branches. Then I select branches to cut out. Another tip that is important for trees is to always cut where there is a branch. Do not leave a stub. Stubs either die or branch profusely. Either one is a bad idea since it causes unnatural growth.
Dead branches can always be pruned out at any time of the year. This is a good time of the year to remove dead branches since plants are now fully leafed out, and it is easy to identify dead branches. Remove dead branches by pruning well back into healthy wood. Azaleas and junipers commonly have dead branches.
Flowering pear trees can have dead tips caused by a disease called fire blight. The branch tips will look like they have been burned. Some tips will crook over like a shepherds crook. If you see these symptoms, be careful not to spread the disease. Fire blight is very infectious. To keep from spreading the disease, clean the shears between each cut with alcohol or a 10 percent bleach solution.
Pruning timing is important. Spring flowering shrubs and trees (those that bloom before May 1) should be pruned between bloom and mid-July. Other plants can be pruned from January through Sept. 15. Try to avoid pruning plants when they are stressed due to heat, drought or other factors.
There is no need to use pruning paint or tar. These compounds do not generally promote healing, and they can provide a hiding place for pests. If removing large branches from trees, use the three-cut method to protect the tree. See this publication for information on the three-cut method and other pruning tips: http://tinyurl.com/d57pcae. If you have questions, call your local University of Georgia extension office at (800) ASK-UGA1.
Willie Chance retired as the University of Georgia Extension agent for Houston County and is the quality control manager for Unique Landscaping of Warner Robins. Contact him at 929-1997.