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Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

img 1713 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Well one the last part, we looked at the science behind making pruning cuts and best ways of pruning using secateurs and loppers, this week we shall look at using the power horse of hand tools, yes the pruning saw! So what is a pruning saw and how does it differ from say a carpentry saw? Well it’s a much stiffer blade that those types of saws and most of the time cut on the pull. Some can be folded up to fit into your pocket or a fixed blade. Pruning saws are used to prune anything bigger than 15mm and up to well as big as you can cut! A bit like using secateurs, theres no right or wrong ways but there’s always better ways to reduce damage or risks to the tree or plants. First thing is to get the sharpest pruning saw you can get with a sharp clean blade, over the years I have found Silky pruning saws the sharpest and even with these, I tend to change the blade every year so I am using the sharpest I can.

img 1730 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Now the angles of cut depending if the buds are alternate or oppersite are the same as for using secateurs on wood up to a couple of years old but they are a little more difficult to see in the older wood, almost looking for wrinkles in the Wood is almost a sign that buds are there hidden. That said in wood over 25mm thick, I prefer to do a straight cut across. The reasons are simple, the surface area on straight cuts are much smaller than cuts made at an angle, which means the plant has a smaller area to heal over. That even means on the junction of bigger branches. The pruning cut on these bigger branches to the main stem used to be done at an angle on the stem, the angle of the cut was always done just above the ridges or collar on the stem. It was thought these would heal quicker but it’s not really the case as the straight cut will heal a lot sooner.

Removing larger stems using a pruning saw is always best done in stages to reduce the chances of the branches tearing down the stem and causing a bigger damage for the plant to repair. Best way is to reduce the weight of the branch by either putting a cut on the underside of the branch to about a 1/5th of the width of the branch and at least 300mm from the trunk and then the main cut about 50mm above this. If you leave a bigger gap, the branch tends to trap itself in the bottom cut and doesn’t fall cleanly. The branch should snap cleanly off and fall down to the ground, then you finish off the cut neatly on the main stem . That cut is ideal for most pruning cuts. If there’s something underneath you that you don’t want the branch to drop off suddenly and hit, you can cut all the way though in one cut. This at times can cause a tear underneath the stems so I would make this cut at least 1000mm from the main stem in case the cut tears down. After this cut has been made and the branch had fallen down or been grabbed, the next cut needs to lighten the weight on the branch by cutting it down to 500mm before cutting the branch off at the main stem. All the cuts are pictured below

Last main pruning cut is removing stems from the base of shrubs and the key this here is to get the cuts as low as possible. Any stubs left will make the base of the plant look ugly and also mean next time you cut a stem out, you can’t get close to the base and it ends up even more snaggy

one other thing I don’t do is paint the cut area with wound paint. I prefer to let the wound heal naturally and found that the treatment tends to seal in the moisture and cause rot quicker

img 1720 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Picture of a clean drop pruning cut

img 1724 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2img 1726 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

How it worked

img 1705 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Cutting straight through

img 1709 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2img 1710 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

A straight though cut that shows the damage that it can cause

img 1703 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

The growing collar as described in text

img 1728 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2img 1729 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Taking the stump back to the tree at the smallest point, if you had gone back harder, it will result in a larger wound and will take longer to heal

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Pruning cuts-how to get them right! Part 1.

img 0590 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

It’s the time of year we all start pruning the dormant summer and autumn flowering shrubs and trees and getting the pruning cuts can be crucial for some plants for so many reasons. First of all you have to remember that you are being a surgeon on the plant and you would hate to have someone cutting you up with a blunt tool so make sure the tool you are using is not only sharp (will be featuring a bit of sharpening soon) but clean as well, if in doubt, just spray it with so household cleaning product that kills 99.9% of all know germs dead! You know the one I mean.

img 1287 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

Now one thing to remember is that all plants don’t heal themselves but work to reduce the damaged area to stop fungi and other diseases entering the plant. The plant first of chemical process that reduces the risk of the wound becoming infected and then it callus over in time using callus cell in the stems of the plant. This all depends on the type of shrub or tree you are pruning. Some plants can have very thin bark with a thinner layer of callus cells that can mean the cut takes much longer to heal, roses and beech trees are good examples of this. There is a difference on age of the wood too, the younger twiggy wood doesn’t heal at the wound but near the next available bud. Again that something worth remembering for in a bit.

For this next bit, I am focusing on using secateurs and loppers and will do a bit of using saws later.

img 1613 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

First thing to look for is whether the buds are opposite each other or alternate (see pictures) this does change the angle of the cut. With plants that buds are opposite, its best to cut level just top of the buds so basically you don’t damage them. The plant will boast either one or both these buds into life in the spring. Now with alternate buds, you are looking at taking a sloping cut away just above the bud and angled so the bud is at the top of the slope. Some people think that you do that to allow the water to drain away but that’s not the main reason why, it’s done like that so the plant pushes the sap into that bud and allows that bud to break. The cut should be ideally no more than 10mm above the bud as any more above it can result in die back and the stem dying back past that next bud and down to the next, leaving more dead wood in the plant to attract in diseases. One thing to remember though, no one can get it right all the time, not even us professionals, the idea is to aim to get it right most times and try and achieve at least 80% good cuts. Hopefully the pictures below will explain a bit more.

img 1578 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

A rose has alternative buds, as you can see there’s no bud opposite

img 1579 1 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

While this Hydrangea has its buds opposite each other

img 1594 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

When pruning plants with opposite buds, you aim for a level cut just above the top of the bud

img 0586 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

This picture shows the dieback from poorly angled cuts for a rose that has alternate buds. notice the church window of doom and also the damage down into the next bud at times

img 0590 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

The alternate bud cut at the right angle with the blue lines showing what is happening to the sap and how it pushes it towards the bud to encourage that one to break.

Well that’s the end of the first part, next time we shall look at using a pruning saw and how to make the bigger cuts with that.

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Mistletoe and how to grow it

img 1577 Mistletoe and how to grow it

img 1576 Mistletoe and how to grow it

Mistletoe (Viscum album) is in most homes at this time of the year, indeed it’s history has deep roots into ancient England and Europe. Those fans of Asterix, will know of the Druid Getafix would be spending his time looking and finding mistletoe to use in his various potions and indeed it was actually set to facts. The druids cut mistletoe using a golden sickle from an oak tree on the 6th night of a new moon after the winter solstice. At the same time 2 white bulls were also scarified as a thank you for the mistletoe. It was then divided up amongst the villagers and hung above their doorways to prevent evils like lighting hitting the house. The druids also thought that the berries were indeed the sperm of the gods and used as a magical aphrodisiac. The leaves where also made into a tea and drink to ward off all kinds of evil like witchcraft, poisoning ect.

img 1575 Mistletoe and how to grow it

The Norse tale of mistletoe is also a good one. The most loved of all Norse gods was Balder, his mum, the goddess Frigga, so loved her son, she went around the world making peace treaties with all apart from the Loki, an evil spirt, who made an arrow from a mistletoe branch and used it to kill Balder. Frigga’s tears became the white berries and then Balder is restored to life and the plant mistletoe, becomes a symbol of love. Even in the Anglo-Saxon times, the mistletoe was a symbol of love goddess Freya and a kiss under the mistletoe was seen as a marriage proposal.

img 1577 Mistletoe and how to grow it

Throughout history, this plant has been a focus in our lives, mainly I think for its odd life cycle. Unlike most plants, it doesn’t grow in soil but is indeed what is called a hemiparasite. Hemiparasite are parasitic plants that need to grow on a host plant and use them for most of water and nutrients but the European mistletoe does have green leaves and does photosynthesise so can not be called a parasitic plant but a hemiparasite. It’s lifecycle is indeed fascinating too. It has male and female plants and it’s of course the female plants that have the white berries. It does need a host plant to live on and this European species can be found growing on over 200 species of trees but does favour members of the Rosacea family like apples, where it was grown like a second crop. As it does grow on a host species it can weaken it over time if it gets too big size wise. When his happens, it weakens the stem above the mistletoe clump, leaving it prone to dieback and breaking off, this is a particular problem in trees prone for breakages like populars and Robinias. Also if the mistletoe takes over the whole tree, it can increase the chances of the tree being blown over in strong winds. Best way to control the size and weight of the mistletoe on a tree is to prune it back hard if it getting too big. This doesn’t do it any harm what so ever and it will happily regrow away.

Mistletoe is however a very clever plant when it comes to reproducing itself. It’s made it’s berries very sticky indeed! Why may this be useful? Well for it to reproduce successfully, the seed needs to be on a host tree branch, normal seeds from other plants are normally eaten by the birds and pass though its digestive system and come out the other end, this is a bit hit and miss where the bird poo ends up! So they developed very sticky White berries that aren’t attractive to most birds, just ones that know how to deal with it best, Mistle thrushes and mainly Blackcaps. Whilst the Mistle Thrush tends to swallow a few whole, mainly them and the Blackcaps pick off the berries carefully on their beaks and wipe the berries onto the tree branches. This helps them push the inedible seed to one side and allows them to eat the edible pulp and skin. This is exactly what the mistletoe needs to germinate. First the little green leaves open and the root tries to push into the bark of the tree, this is the stage which is most difficult and the reason they do have a high failure rate but once the root has broken though, the young plant can then start taking the water and nutrients from the host plant and using its own photosynthesis, turn it into food for itself. Knowing how the birds spread mistletoe around makes it easy for us to do the same if required, just squeeze the seeds out of the pulp onto a good host plant like an apple tree, lime tree and that’s it, doesn’t need you to make a cut into the tree, cover with hessian as done in the past, just nice and simple. It’s worth doing this with at least 10 seeds to make sure you get a couple to germinate.

img 2002 Mistletoe and how to grow it

A wiped seed on a branch ready to germinate

img 2005 Mistletoe and how to grow it

Mistle thrush poo on a apple tree branch

img 2001 1 Mistletoe and how to grow it

Mistletoe a year after germinating

Next thing is in a few years time you have mistletoe to enjoy at Christmas from your own plant.

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Tool review-ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR-3.0-5

img 1175 Tool review ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR 3.0 5

img 1175 Tool review ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR 3.0 5Whenever you are pruning shrubs there’s always one little bit you can’t reach whether its from the ground or indeed perched on a step ladder, reaching those little bits has always been in the realm of the long arm pruners. I have used many forms in the past and they all have the same problem, the blade! I love using razor sharp secateurs and want all my other pruning equipment to be as sharp but all the long arm pruners I have used in the past, well the blade not to put a fine point on it, has been rubbish! That was until I brought these Japanese made ARS ones. Yes they aren’t cheap at £119.00 but the blade is a Felco quality blade, one that holds it edge better than any other long arm pruners on the current market. It is also easily replaced by undoing a few screws. Now don’t get me wrong, these won’t handle the large range of thick branches that the more robust long arm pruners will manage but it will handle most plant materials up to about 12mm thick making it ideal for fine pruning of things like roses, wisterias, fruit trees and other shrubs. The length starts at 6ft and is easily extendable to the maximum 10ft in 1ft using the push button adjustment, just hold it in and pull the pole until it clicks in, the pruning head is also easy to adjust and goes into 3 different angles to get the right angle to get the best cut. With all the other long arm pruners I have used in the past, to cut anything, you need to pull on a rope or a lever, which isn’t ideal when you are up some steps or moving amongst a load of plants with the cord trapped up somewhere. These have squeezable handle that makes the job of cutting very easy as does the sliding grip for you other hand. The ARS long arm pruners are very well built with the added bonus that all parts are serviceable and replaceable if required. They are very little light to use and in the last six months I have had the pleasure to use them, worked very well and have been easy to look after and keep sharp. Try hard as I can, I can’t find a fault in them, they do what they are intended for, very well and indeed I am left with the feeling it was more of my hard earned money well spent

For light pruning I would whole heartily recommend them

You can buy them from a number of suppliers who do supply ARS. I brought mine from the rather excellent Niwaki and their website can be found by clicking here

img 1189 Tool review ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR 3.0 5

The cutting head is well made and easy to sharpen as well as replace if needed. The flexible metal strip is what makes it all work!

img 1178 Tool review ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR 3.0 5

The squeezable handles are very easy to use and not caused any blisters yet! They stay closed using the black clip. It is very easy to use and in a great position.

img 11801 Tool review ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR 3.0 5

The nice sliding handle is prefect to get your hand in the right place

img 11811 Tool review ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR 3.0 5

The length adjustment is pretty easy just press in and pull until you hear a click and the popper pops in to the hole pic below

img 11821 Tool review ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR 3.0 5

img 1186 Tool review ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR 3.0 5img 1185 Tool review ARS telescopic long reach pruner 180ZR 3.0 5

The heads are fully adjustable to 3 angles

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Plant of the week- Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii profusion 6 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

This weeks plant of the week is once more mainly planted for its berries and is commonly called the ‘Beauty Berry’ for this reason. The stunning purple berries hang on the plant for a great deal of the winter, all for us to enjoy

This beautiful shrub is a native of China, mainly around the provinces of Szechwan, Hupeh and Shensi. It was first discovered by the famous plant hunter, Augustine Henry in around 1887 but it wasn’t until the late 1890’s that the German missionary Giraldi collected seed and sent it back to Hess’s Nursery in Germany, that it reached Europe. Hess sold the plants as giraldii but sadly the name wasn’t published until much later, after the name bodinieri had been given to this species. However var giraldii does differ from the bulk of C.bodinieri as the undersides of the leaves are less hairy and silvery. It reaches 6 to 9ft over a number of years, it’s leaves are a mid green colour on top with a slightly silver side underneath. The small white flowers are borne in the summer and really aren’t something you would notice but it’s the shining purple berries that really highlight this plant to us, these purple berries are one of the longest berries to stay on any plants, helped by their very bitter taste that puts the wildlife off until there’s nothing else to eat.

 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

It is an easy plant to look after as well, it is happy to grow on most aspects including north facing sites, it does prefer to be in a sunny or semi shaded spot. It is happy in most types of soil as long as it is fertile and not water logged, not fussy whether it’s acidic or alkaline, clay or sand, all it needs is a good humus soil, so well worth mulching it with garden produced compost and also feed it with Vitax Q4 fertiliser in the spring it also requires very little pruning, just a little bit of shaping and dead wood removal. Easy to propagate from soft wood or semi hardwood cuttings. Also it has very few pests attacking it! In all, it does make it a very useful plant indeed!

It’s pretty well widely sold and grown in gardens, so should be easy to buy and see.

callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii profusion 4 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

2YnoBk1500924993 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’
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Pruning once flowering rambling roses

img 2858 Pruning once flowering rambling roses

Pruning roses always seem to have a mist of confusion around them, no matter where I go, who I talk too or indeed listen too, roses are one plant that leaves them confused when it comes to pruning. What to prune, when to prune, taking too much off, not taking enough off. It’s no wonder really with so much Conflicting advice around in books, the internet, magazines and on telly. Hopefully over the next couple of years, I will go through my own methods of pruning and hopefully explain how I get the best from the roses I look after and hopefully make it a little clearer! 
To prune any plant no matter what it is, you have to know not only what it is, how it flowers and grows but also what you want from it. Now the first two I can help with but the 3rd is down to you to decide. First of all what it is the difference between rambling and climbing roses, this is the hardest part for most people, so many times I get asked what is the difference between a rambler and a climber. A climbing rose is basically a shrub or bush rose that grows too big to be grown without any support, as a shrub or bush rose it needs a framework of wood 2+years old in the plant to allow it to flower the best. While a rambler is the true climber, it uses long growths to scrabble over anything it’s path whether it’s a tree, building, rock face or even the ground. These new growths can be up to 25ft in one year depending on the variety grown. These new stems are the best for producing flowers the following year, i.e. Wood that’s  1 year old at time of flowering. The 2nd year old wood tends to produce smaller flowers on the growths, but also produces new longer stems further from the base which maybe too long to use on a frame or a structure. These long and mainly flexible current growing stems makes them ideal for wrapping around features like poles, ropes and arches. This also encourages the rose to flower from the bottom to the top. There are 2 types of ramblers, the repeat flowering and the once flowering. It is the once flowering ones we are looking at during this blog. Again once flowering rambling can be divided up into 2 types, those who produce hips and those that don’t. Pruning is the same for both, just the hip forming ones can be done in February while the none hip forms can be done now or once they have flowered. Reason being that all the flowering wood is removed to encourage these new growths to grow even more. This is because with removing the flowered wood, it puts more effort and energy into the new wood and this will grow even more  after pruning. That said a weekly feed of liquid seaweed and a handful of vitax Q4 after pruning will help it to grow even more. I hope the picture guide will help explain it even more 

img 0175 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
The rambling rose once it’s finished flowering showing both flowered wood and new growth
img 0176 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
The new growth! This is what you want! Please please please don’t cut these off, try and tie in during the season before flowering
img 0185 1 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
Prune back the flowered stems to a nice new growth, always find its best to do this for all stems can thin out older ones or not as good ones after you have finished and have a chance to review what’s left
img 0186 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
Once I have pruned the stem, I lay it at right angles to the base of the plant so it out of the way and all together
img 0190 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
Once all the flowered wood is pruned away, I start tying in the new growth, using the longest ones growing from the base if possible, tying them to cover as much as possible
img 0193 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
I like to use a figure of 8 knot to secure the new growth to the fixings, don’t tie it too tight or the string will dig into the plant as it grows
img 0199 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
I try and train the stems in curves to encourage as many breaks of the flower growths next year as I can, it can also be useful to cover a bigger space with the really long growths, the shorter ones I use to cover the bare patches near the base of the plant.
img 0196 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
The finished pruned plant, note the amount of waste produced, pruning like this does produce a lot of waste, all there is left to do now is feed the plant with Vitax Q4 and tie in the new growth once every 2weeks and enjoy the flowers next summer
img 2858 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
The rose flowering the following year
img 3860 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
This rambling rector is spread out more but is still pruned the same way
img 3866 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
This rambler is pruned the same way but the new growths are wrapped around the pillar, going both clock and anti-clockwise
011 Pruning once flowering rambling roses
The new growths can be turned into any shape you like and will flower well!

Really they are that easy, just a case of removing the old flowered wood and tie in the new stems, they are really as simple as that. I tend to use just my silky pruning saw, my trust Tobisho SR1 secateurs to prune and nutscene 3ply twine to tie in. 

I hope you enjoyed the blog and found it useful! 

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Job of the week- Pruning Buddleja 

My job of the week this week is back to the job I love most pruning, there is nothing much nicer pruning and shaping a plant knowing that it will look good and encourage better plants for it.

Pruning buddlejas is a pretty simple job, all you need is a pair of really sharp secateurs, a sharp pruning saw and a pair of loppers to carry out the work and also a pair of leather gloves and safety glasses just in case of any slips of the tool and plant kind, always find avoiding A&E ideal as the NHS is so stretched

I like to carry out this task around this time of year as although buddleja are tough plants that will grow anywhere, I have found in the past that doing it early can exposed the new shoots to forest damage and then cause a few problems to the health of the plant.

I aim for a plant that’s about 45cm in height when pruned, as the new growth in the year can be up to 7ft in height, I find pruning down to this height idea to encourage a good shaped plant with lots of new growth coming rom the base. First thing I do is to remove any dead wood out of the plant and remove any old massive stems that are crowding the newer younger stems. The new stems are pruned down to about 35cm to allow the frame work of side branches to form over time. In a couple of years, these will get to the 45cm height and then hopefully removed. For the side growths that are already growing from the frame work of older branches, I remove them down to 2 sets of buds with a straight level cut, why a straight cut? Well the buds on buddejas are oppersite each other so required a flat level cut, other plants like roses are alternate so need a oppersite cut

Well I hope that’s easy to understand and enjoy the weekend of pruning.

img 2114 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
pruning with a start cut just above the bud

img 2113 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
pruning with a start cut just above the bud

img 2125 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
The plant before i start
img 2126 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 

img 2083 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
sometimes the saw comes out

img 2127 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
the finished plant with my tools