One of the most important things to do around the garden is pruning trees and shrubs and some of the most common questions we get asked at the Sanctuary Point Garden Centre is about pruning deciduous trees, either ornamental or fruiting and of course when is the best time of the year to prune? How much you should remove and can you prune too much? These are all relevant and great questions, so here’s some information to help you get an understanding of what happens to deciduous trees at particular times of the year and what you need to take into account when you’re in the mood for pruning!!!
Let’s start with some interesting plant science…….
In all deciduous trees and shrubs, before the onset of winter, assimilates (sugars and starch) produced as a result of photosynthesis in the leaves during the growing season are moved from the leaves and into the stems and roots. This movement from the leaves results in the change of leaf colour and eventual leaf fall (check out Loralyn Avenue during Autumn). Over winter these assimilates are stored in the stems and roots until the beginning of spring when they are subsequently shunted back into the stem and into the new bursting spring buds.
If your goal is to rejuvenate a plant, Winter pruning of the dormant plant is the best approach. Hard pruning will leave fewer buds to be stimulated into growth by the re-mobilized food reserves and will lead to more vigorous growth. This is partly due to more reserves for each remaining bud, but also because of the altered hormonal balance due to the reduced shoot size.
If, on the other hand, you want to restrict the growth of a shrub or tree, then Summer and Autumn shoot pruning may be the answer. By cutting away wood in the summer or early Autumn, you are removing the food reserves that are still in the shoot system. This results in less vigorous regrowth, and is particularly appropriate for trained fruit trees, such as espalier as it will discourage vegetative growth but does encourage flower and fruit production.
So in summary, if you prune your deciduous fruit tree in Winter, you get vigourous leaf and shoot re-growth in Spring and if you prune in Summer or Autumn you will get less leaf and shoot growth and more flower and fruit growth.
If you need more information on pruning, feel free to drop into the Sanctuary Point Garden Centre at 118 Macleans Point Road, Sanctuary Point and have a chat with Kathy.