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Pruning is easy if you follow the rules
Brandi Sandoval points out the “eye” or bud on a branch she cut away from a butterfly bush Thursday at the Gardens on Green. - photo by Michelle Boaen Jameson

That bush obscuring your view as you back down the driveway. Those limbs scratching the window pane with every breeze. The roses taking over your front porch. These are just some of the many reasons to learn how to prune.

Even if you don’t have the hands of a surgeon, you can perform a limb-ectomy, so to speak.

“It’s pretty hard to do something wrong when your pruning,” said landscaper Brandi Sandoval. She was at Gardens on Green on Thursday for a little Pruning 101 with a few fearful gardeners.

The first lesson was having the right tools and making sure they were in good working order — that means sharp. It is important to prevent the spread of plant diseases by cleaning and disinfecting tools after use.

“The anvil pruning shears really work best because the flat surface provides a clean, even cut for the blade,” said Sandoval.

Most people are familiar with the more beak-shaped loppers, but she said, they are prone to twisting and get dull fairly quickly.

Knowing what to prune when is also an important step.

According the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, it’s best to prune when shrubs are dormant. You wouldn’t want to cut back azaleas, for instance, in the middle of March.

But camellias, crape myrtles and knock-out roses can be cut back now. So can blueberry bushes and butterfly bushes.

The UGA Cooperative advises spring and summer-flowering plants, such as dogwood or forsythia, be pruned after they bloom. Pruning spring-flowering shrubs during the dormant season will remove flower buds formed during the previous fall.

Another tip: Avoid heavy pruning during the late summer and fall. Any new regrowth may be susceptible to cold injury. Peach trees, for example, should not be pruned from October through January.

Pruning isn’t always necessary, but it can be good to help stimulate new growth.

Whether you want a plant to bush out or take a certain shape depends on how you prune it.

“Really, it’s depends on what you want from the plant. It’s about personal taste,” said Sandoval.

She said cutting back a plant can help it bush out and fill in space in a landscape. Pruning out wayward stems and limbs can allow other limbs to grow taller.

Her rule of thumb when choosing where to cut is to chop “between the eyes and between the green.” Cutting between two shoots — like the eyes on a potato — encourages nutrients to head for the new growth.

She advises that cuts be made at about a 45-degree angle.

The cooperative website warns that shaping a shrub depends on where the cut is made: “Heading cuts, such as topping, dehorning and hedging, often are misused and destroy the natural shape of plants because they stimulate regrowth near pruning cuts.”

For a complete list of plants to prune in winter and a detailed explanation of the different types of pruning cuts, head the cooperative website.

And if you still have questions, call the good folks at the Hall County Extension office at 770-532-8293.