Midwinter is the ideal time to prune many of your deciduous plants. Learn what to cut (and what to keep the secateurs away from!) with this winter pruning plan.
What to work on
Cut back summer bloomers, including rose and hydrangea, and take the pruning tools to grape, elderberry, Boston ivy, berberis, crepe myrtle and any other deciduous trees that need to be shaped or shortened. Don’t prune any plants that bloom in spring, or you’ll cut off the incipient flower buds before they have a chance to open. Spring bloomers are best pruned after flowering.
Having the right tools makes pruning easier and produces the best results. Start with a sharp pair of secateurs and a good quality pruning saw. A pair of long-handled loppers, hedge shears and a tall pole pruner can also be helpful. Here’s another tip for pruning time: wrap some brightly coloured tape around the handles of smaller tools to make them easier to find when you inevitably put them down in leaf litter or mulch.
When you head out to the garden, follow this pruning checklist to be safe:
- Wear eye protection, as well as gloves that are suited to the job at hand.
- Choose the right tool for the job. Make sure it’s clean and sharp, and the moving parts are well lubricated.
- Handle pruning tools with care, and be aware of the risks associated with sharp points and blades.
- Avoid pruning near powerlines – this is best handled by the professionals.
- Be conscious of where branches are likely to fall after you’ve cut them, and position yourself appropriately. Again, if it’s heavy wood that you’re dealing with, your best bet is to call in the professionals.
- Make sure your ladder has a firm footing, and ask someone to hold it for you while you work. Be careful that you don’t over-reach from the ladder, either.