Pruning is a crucial component to maintaining happy, healthy shrubs and keeping your landscape beautiful. It removes the weight of dead or diseased branches, stimulates new growth, and allows more light and air to filter through your plants. Many first-time gardeners find themselves wary of how to approach trimming hedges, trees and shrubs – but have no fear. We are here to offer tips on how to prune properly.
First, prepare your tools and materials. While trimming hedges isn’t particularly dangerous work, there is still the possibility of cutting your hands with your tools or rogue branches snapping toward your face. Therefore, it’s recommended to wear thick gardening gloves along with safety goggles to protect your eyes and hands as you work. For touch-ups and small shrubs, a hand pruner will work just fine. However, if you’re aiming for more intensive shaping of bushes, shrubs, and trees, a hedge trimmer will serve you best and save you time. Laying out a tarp underneath the area where you’re working will make cleanup a breeze.
While you can do some light pruning throughout the year, the best time to prune depends on when each plant does the majority of their blooming and growing. Shrubs that flower in the early spring should be pruned as soon as they are finishing blooming, while you should wait until winter or early spring to prune your summer-flowering shrubs and trees. Evergreen shrubs that don’t flower can be shaped once they’re done growing for the season.
Begin pruning by removing any dead or diseased branches selectively with your hand pruners. Once you’ve gotten rid of them, thin out areas that are growing quite densely; this will let the inner branches receive light and air too. Work on shaping your shrubs after you’ve finished removing and trimming the dense, dead parts.
There is no “right” way to shape your plants–it depends solely on how you would like them to look. Some people prefer a more natural, irregular appearance. Others enjoy the look of perfectly curved edges or symmetrically straight lines. You may choose to make small cuts at a time, take a step back, then decide where else could use a trim; however, if you want straight lines, stakes with string tied between them will serve you well. Place stakes every three or four feet or so along your shrubs, and run string between them. Use a level to make sure the string is flat and not uneven. After you’ve got the string in place, you can use the string as a guideline when you are trimming hedges. Be careful not to put the string too close to your hedge though–untangling string and mangled stakes from your hedge trimmer is not a preferable way to spend your afternoon!
Hedge trimmers are great to use when removing the bulk of the overgrown branches on your hedges; however, they’re not great for small changes. When your hedges have the correct general shape you want to achieve, switch back to your hand pruners for touch-ups. Use them to trim individual branches that are slightly too long or out of place. By the time you’re done, you will have beautiful shrubs and borders around your landscape!
Stop by Big Earth Landscape Supply for all the gardening tools you’ll need to prune and trim your way to a gorgeous landscape. Start by browsing our online store for ideas and inspiration.