Ornamental Shrubs

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The best way to be sure that you enjoy the ornamental and flowering shrubs you so carefully select and plant is to prune them regularly. The specific aims are to control size and shape, to keep the bush healthy and growth vigorous, and to control flowering and fruiting. Starting when the plant is young is critical.

Pruning Ornamental Shrubs

There are a variety of tools you'll need to have on hand, depending on the shrubs or ornamental trees you have. Starting small, you'll be looking at anvil and spring-operated scissor shears--what you want for roses, for example, or young azaleas. These are the most valuable tool, and are suited to branches up to three quarters of an inch thick. Long-handled lopping shears with curved blades are ideal for a careful manicure of larger shrubs and new growth on young trees. They're designed for branches from three quarters of an inch to perhaps an inch and a half in diameter.

Pruning saws with their familiar arced blade are made to cut on the pull stroke. The blade itself is thin and the teeth coarse, which is an effective combination for branches thicker than an inch and a half. Hedge shears, with handles as long as the straight and thick blades, are meant for trimming hedges and manicured shrubs. They are not suited for general pruning.

Timing is important when it comes to pruning. A general rule of thumb is to prune in early spring while the plant is still dormant. Flowering shrubs, on the other hand, are best pruned after they bloom but before autumn and cool temperatures set in. Technique is also important. There are two methods, heading and thinning. Good pruning usually demands a combination of the two. Heading cuts back to the bud of a branch, where thinning cuts back to a main branch or trunk.

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