Specialised Pruning Strategies: Stooling, Sucker Elimination, and Raise-Pruning

Regardless of erratic climate patterns within the Pacific Northwest in the course of the chilly months of the 12 months, winter is a superb time to care for pruning your bushes and shrubs. Early chilly snaps and snow or prolonged delicate temperatures can go away lots of the vegetation feeling confused. In delicate years, some deciduous woody vegetation can nonetheless have their leaves in mid to late December. However as soon as the leaves are lastly gone, and thru late winter, it’s the proper time to evaluate the form of particular person bushes and shrubs and bust out your pruners, loppers, and even chainsaw for slightly pruning. Beneath you’ll discover some specialised pruning methods that may assist rejuvenate your vegetation and make sure that they develop properly within the coming season.

Drastic measures: Winter is a superb time for stooling

Whereas there are a number of kinds of pruning types and strategies, winter is the perfect time for renovation pruning—laborious or radical pruning carried out to tame or rejuvenate vegetation. The explanation this timing is greatest is as a result of the bushes and shrubs are dormant, and so they don’t reply with vigorous new progress after the winter pruning. Plus, the chance of insect pest and illness exercise threatening the well being of the plant is decrease this time of 12 months.

Good candidates for renovation pruning embody these shrubs that sneak up on us. Typically we miss the apparent in our beds—like a shrub that appears lovely sooner or later after which all of a sudden appears to be overwhelming its neighbor. That is straightforward to see in winter. If you spot a shrub that has gotten uncontrolled, the drastic methodology of pruning referred to as “stooling” is usually wanted. That is once you reduce a shrub right down to the bottom.

Throughout my winter evaluation this 12 months, I discovered in my backyard a Ghost® weigela (Weigela florida ‘Carlton’, Zones 4–8) crowding a close-by ‘Susan’ magnolia (Magnolia ‘Susan’, Zones 4–8) and neighboring barberries (Berberis spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9). It was clearly time to stool-prune this multistemmed shrub. When stooling a shrub, I exploit a battery-operated chainsaw to chop the stems right down to about 6 inches above the bottom. When all of the particles is eliminated, you’ll be able to see the constructive impact this pruning can have on the encompassing shrubs. That is additionally time to take away lifeless or crossing branches on these neighboring shrubs, which is able to reply by filling the open house with wholesome new progress in the course of the coming 12 months.

shrub in need of renovation pruning in winter
This overgrown weigela is in want of renovation pruning.

Now can also be time to take care of suckers

This time of 12 months can also be the perfect time to search for suckers on vegetation. Usually you will notice shoots coming from the underside of a tree or single-stemmed shrub. These will be suckers under a graft (scion) from a root inventory or from bushes and shrubs which are susceptible to suckering. If a sucker is allowed to proceed rising, it should overwhelm the principle plant and sometimes trigger the fascinating stems to die off. Suckers should be eliminated to take care of an uncluttered and sculptural plant. Lilacs (Syringa spp. and cvs., Zones 3–8) are instance of suckering shrubs. They usually make dense hedges if suckers are allowed to develop unhindered. Stroll by your backyard and look intently on the trunks of bushes and shrubs for indicators of suckering. Take away any suckers that may be pulled out by hand, as it will usually take away the expansion level from the principle plant. If they’re too massive to tug off, use a noticed or hand pruners (relying on the dimensions of the sucker) to chop as near the trunk or root as doable.

witch hazel before and after winter pruning
Witch hazels (Hamamelis spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) usually have suckers that should be pruned. From left to proper: the shrub stem earlier than the suckers had been eliminated; the stem after the suckers had been eliminated; the eliminated suckers.



Raise-pruning: Look out for vegetation being crowded from above too

One other type of crowding to search for and tackle in winter is crowding on the base of bushes and shrubs. Floor covers and smaller shrubs beneath among the greater shrubs and bushes can usually disappear if the bigger woody vegetation usually are not stored in examine by pruning up, or lift-pruning. Camellias (Camellia spp. and cvs., Zones 6–10) are instance of shrubs that may have branches hanging right down to the bottom. By pruning off among the decrease branches, you present house for smaller shrubs to develop and bloom. In my backyard, I’ve a number of kinds of ferns in my camellia beds that profit from lift-pruning, which supplies them extra gentle. The ferns additionally present a beautiful texture as they fill in properly beneath the big shrubs.

If in case you have fruit bushes and roses, January and February are the perfect instances to prune these vegetation within the Northwest. Typically, although, rule of thumb for winter pruning is to do it earlier than bud break. Additionally, don’t neglect to wash up cuttings and leftover leaves, which is able to assist with total illness prevention within the spring and summer season. For assist with different pruning strategies, pruning e-book is indispensable. You can too try High-quality Gardening’s Mission Information on Pruning, which is chock-full of pruning how-tos, suggestions, and sources.


—Susan Calhoun is the proprietor of Plantswoman Design in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Images: courtesy of Susan Calhoun

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