Tree Pruning: Less fear with practice

Pruning. The word strikes a certain terror in those of us who love our plants but fear doing anything that might harm, disfigure or discourage them, although we know it is good for maintaining the health, vigor and appearance of the plant. You know who you are.

Some of us who had tried pruning have discovered hidden talents: making branch cuts look like they were gnawed off by teeth or shaping a Picasso-esque lopsided pine tree. Others, frozen by fear of pruning, surrendered by letting that shrub that promised to ‘grow more beautiful each year’ on its tag look like roadkill.

In April, a tree pruning workshop covering basic cutting techniques and introduction to the required tools for the job was attended by a group of Master Gardeners and some spouses who were gently coerced to be there. It was hosted by Pat Plantenberg (seriously, it is his real name), the Montana Director of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (RMC-ISA) and 2017 RMC-ISA Arborist of the Year, who obviously knows trees and pruning tools. His lopping shears are called Cindi. Geddit? Cindi Lauper, haha.

tree pruning 2.pngAfter inspecting the tools we brought (my new lopping shears did not pass muster, my ancient hand-medown bypass pruners did), Pat introduced us to various equipment for successful branch cutting such as bypass pruners, lopping shears, pole bypass pruners and hand saws. Using sample trees, he then demonstrated proper cuts based on his ‘Deciduous Tree Pruning Steps’. We were then allowed to try each equipment to practice pruning skills while applying these steps on some of the trees around Chiesa Plaza at MetraPark. Sawsall to clear tree suckers? Heck yeah! Pole bypass pruner to cut crossing branches? Done!

Many thanks to Pat for this educational and confidenceboosting workshop: for sharing his knowledge on correct tree pruning techniques, best practices, opportunity to use the proper tools and the hands-on experience. Tree pruning may still be challenging but Pat convinced the attendees that with practice and common sense, any vigorous tree with a Napoleonic compulsion to take over the world, can be tamed.

So next time you see this gardener carrying a sawsall and a newer Cindi, be prepared to hear a gleeful ‘timber!’ yell.

~Submitted by Suri Lunde