Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Up Front -

Care­fully pruning bare trees can bring more light to your gar­den in win­ter.

We’ve been hav­ing a big clean-up over the past few days. The main aim has been to tidy over­grown shrubs and trees, but the big cut-back has brought a bonus as more win­ter sun­light is flood­ing into the gar­den.

In mid­win­ter, when the sun is low in the sky, gar­den ar­eas that are usu­ally sunny can be­come shaded and damp. Plants may fail to grow or fall vic­tim to fun­gal dis­eases, such as mildew or rot, and hard sur­faces and lawns may be in­vaded with moss.

Win­ter is a good time to look for ar­eas that have be­come over­grown or over­shad­owed and as­sess whether pruning the sur­round­ing plants may al­low more light to shine through.

Health check

While trees are bare, ex­am­ine their branches and trunks. Look for bro­ken growth or branches that are rub­bing against each other that may need to be pruned.

Also check for in­vad­ing plants. Climbers such as wis­te­ria, jas­mine, ivy and ba­nana pas­sion­fruit vine can in­vade trees over sum­mer. When a tree’s leafy canopy is dis­carded in au­tumn, ev­er­green climbers are easy to spot. Re­move climbers that have in­vaded, as they can weaken trees and may cause branches to break.

While win­ter is a good time to prune and do main­te­nance, don’t take on more than can be man­aged. Don’t tackle large or high branches unas­sisted. In­stead, call in a qual­i­fied and in­sured tree sur­geon to do the job. Not only is it easy to do dam­age to a tree by pruning it badly but tee­ter­ing on a lad­der with a saw or chain­saw in hand has po­ten­tial for dis­as­ter. Lad­ders lead to more ac­ci­dents and hos­pi­tal vis­its than any other gar­den im­ple­ment in the shed.

Pruning tips

Where pruning is on the DIY list, avoid dam­age and die-back by cut­ting branches flush with a main branch or trunk so the wound can heal nat­u­rally.

Look closely at the area on the trunk where the branch emerges. There will be a col­lar of growt+h (in­di­cated by rip­ples or un­du­la­tions in the bark) from where a tree can heal wounds. Cut to just above this area.

Cut large branches back in stages to re­duce their weight and al­ways use sharp tools for a clean cut. Un­der­cut heavy limbs by mak­ing a cut be­low the branch be­fore cut­ting from the top. This ap­proach stops bark tear­ing on the part of the tree that is re­main­ing. Torn bark can lead to die-back and may al­low in­fec­tion to en­ter the tree.

The plant’s re­sponse to be­ing cut back is to send out new shoots, es­pe­cially when spring ar­rives. Cut un­wanted re­growth flush with the stem or orig­i­nal pruning cut and de­ter fu­ture growth by rub­bing off new shoots as they ap­pear on the trunk.

Suck­ers and roses

Win­ter is also a good time to re­move suck­er­ing growth from be­low a graft union.

Suck­ers of­ten ap­pear around grafted or­na­men­tal and fruit trees, and on grafted shrubs such as roses – which brings up the thorny is­sue of rose pruning. In cold and frosty ar­eas, de­lay pruning un­til late win­ter or early spring. When the weather is be­nign, roses can be pruned safely in mid­win­ter.

The aim of rose-pruning is to re­move old wood, in­clud­ing stems more than three years old. Re­move old stems at the base of the plant. Cut back all other growth by about a third, cut­ting just above an out­ward-fac­ing bud, then re­move spindly and in­ward-grow­ing branches to leave three to five main stems.


Gather all rose prun­ings and fallen leaves from around the plant and put them in the garbage (not the com­post or green waste). Im­me­di­ately af­ter pruning and well be­fore new growth ap­pears, spray with lime sul­phur to com­bat scale and rose dis­eases such as black spot.

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