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


Calendar Items for Spring


APRIL 28 ~ GREAT AMERICAN CLEANUP DAY ~ 36 N 23rd, Billings ~ 9 AM




May 8 ~ BLGS LIBRARY ~ BEE TALK ~ 3:30 – 5:00


Just What is Plant Select and What is Happening at Zoo Montana?

Plant Select is the country’s leading brand of plants designed to thrive in high plains and inter-mountain regions, offering plants that provide more beauty with less work so gardeners of all levels can achieve smart, stunning, and successful gardens using fewer resources and with a more positive environmental impact.

Driven by the belief that the right plants in the right place matter and that cultivating plants in tougher growing environments requires smarter approaches, Plant Select leverages a uniquely collaborative model and highly selective cultivation process to find, test, and distribute plants that thrive on less water.

Plant Select’s goal is to create smart plant choices for a new American landscape inspired by the Rocky Mountain region. Plant Select is a nonprofit combining forces of Colorado State University and Denver Botanical Gardens. I (Teresa Miller Bessette) applied to Plant Select for the gardens at Zoo MT to become a test site. Sharon Wetsch and I drove to Fort Collins in August and received plant material. A new site was cut and the plants were planted. There will be meetings and more plant material in the spring!

Submitted by Teresa Miller Bessette

On Thursday March 15th from 4- 5:00 PM in the Community Room at the Billings Library, Master Gardener Teresa Bessette will be giving a presentation on the gardening activities that are going on at ZooMontana’s Botanical Garden. Make plans to attend to hear more about how the Zoo qualified as a test site for Plant Select and what it involves.


Second Annual Pumpkin Carving Class

Our Second Annual Pumpkin Carving class was held on Friday, Oct. 27th in the comfort of the newly remodeled 4-H building. Much less chilly than the greenhouse.

Jeff Schaezle once again patiently worked with six of the Master Gardeners, helping us create our ghoulish mascots for Halloween. Merita was most diligent in cleaning up after us as we all busily whittled away at our works of art (a very messy process).

It was quite challenging, as the goal is to create images with 3 dimensions, so that the faces can be illuminated from inside, but only through thinly carved areas, not the traditional holes usually chiseled for faces. The process took much more time than the traditional method, but the end result was well worth it.



Gardening Series Billings Public Library: Jan | Feb | March 2018

Wednesday, Jan. 24th – Backyard Bird Feeding with Kathy from Wild Birds Unlimited, 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Community Room. Bird feeders can be an important food source during winter. When severe weather impacts wild food supplies, some species of birds will turn to feeders as a critical food resource. It is during these times that feeders play their most vital role. Learn how a thought-ful, winter feeding station may mean the difference between life and death for these birds.

Wednesday, Feb. 7th – Billings Bloomers African Violet Society, (between 4:00 and 6:00, TBD), Community Room.

Tuesday, Feb. 27th – Houseplants with Gainans, 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Community Room.

Thursday, March 15th — Zoo Montana Botanical Garden and Plant Selection Program with Teresa Miller Bessette, 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Community Room.