Be ruth­less: Now is the time to trim back.

Fol­low­ing a burst of en­ergy in spring, many flow­er­ing trees and roses need a care­ful trim to thin them out and get rid of tan­gled or old growth

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS - writes PETER CUNDALL with Peter Cundall

Early sum­mer is an ideal time to prune spring-flow­er­ing trees to get rid of weak or dead wood while stim­u­lat­ing strong new flow­er­ing growth for next spring.

Ja­panese cherry-blos­som trees of­ten de­velop masses of use­less, twiggy growth. Oc­ca­sion­ally large branches start to die back in spring, es­pe­cially af­ter long wet pe­ri­ods. Wa­ter­log­ging dur­ing win­ter cause outer roots to rot, so trees die back to try and re­store bal­ance. Dy­ing branches are best re­moved im­me­di­ately they are seen. Cherry blos­soms are also sub­ject to bac­te­rial dis­eases or even bor­ers, an­other cause of dieback.

Cut­ting off dis­eased and dy­ing bran-- ches iso­lates and gets rid of con­tam­i­nated ma­te­rial. Or­na­men­tal blos­som trees are usu­ally grafted on to closely-re­lated, vig­or­ous stock. When these roots are dam­aged due to wind-rock or deep cul­ti­va­tion, sucker growth in­vari­ably sprouts from wounds. Cut­ting suck­ers hard, prefer­ably be­low ground while in ac­tive growth, helps keep good con­trol.

Weep­ing trees are com­monly dam- by in­cor­rect prun­ing, es­pe­cially those grafted on to tall stan­dards. These beau­ti­ful or­na­men­tal trees are grafted at the tops of stan­dards, of­ten 2m or more above the ground.

The aim is to thin out weep­ing branches rather than cut them back hard. When canopies be­come over­grown and con­gested they have to be pruned, with flow­er­ing va­ri­eties al­ways pruned af­ter blos­soms fade.

First, cut out branches that poke up­wards through canopies in­stead of droop­ing. These al­ways orig­i­nate from be­low graft unions, so are re­ally suck­ers. Next, prune away any non-flow­er­ing, weak branches hang­ing close to trunks. Once

When the last roses shrivel, im­me­di­ately start thin­ning the droop­ing canes

these are re­moved, only outer cir­cles of branches are left dan­gling.

Fi­nally, evenly thin over­crowded and crossed branches. Some weep­ing trees may ap­pear sparse af­ter this treat­ment, but strong, healthy re­place­ment growth ap­pears in weeks and trees are soon cov­ered with new flow­er­ing wood.

This se­lec­tive prun­ing can be car­ried out in early sum­mer with weep­ing crabap­ples and elms. Weep­ing birches and maples bleed eas­ily early in the sea­son so are pruned in late April.

When prun­ing weep­ing figs, avoid con­tact with any milky sap by wear­ing gloves and eye pro­tec­tion. Weep­ing standard roses are noth­ing more than ram­blers grafted on to ex­tra-tall stan­dards. They usu­ally flower once dur­ing early sum­mer and if ne­glected, tend to be­come tan­gled, prickly eye­sores.

When the last roses shrivel, im­me­di­ately start thin­ning the droop­ing canes, choos­ing the old­est ones first and leav­ing all young canes hang­ing.

If nec­es­sary, weep­ing standard roses can be thinned again in July. I wear eye guards and strong gloves for pro­tec­tion. Two-handed lop­pers are per­fect for reach­ing up­wards and easy cut­ting.

Avoid cut­ting main stems be­neath graft unions, eas­ily iden­ti­fied by a dis­tinct swelling, right at the top of stan­dards. Af­ter a good prun­ing, less than half the droop­ing branches may re­main, but new ones sprout in weeks.

Al­ways water trees and roses deeply af­ter sum­mer prun­ing, then sprin­kle blood and bone mixed with about 10 per cent sul­phate of potash gen­er­ously over the root zone be­neath drip-lines. Then water again. You’ll be as­ton­ished at the im­prove­ment in the health, vigour and flow­er­ing ca­pac­ity of these lovely plants.

Prun­ing trees and roses is fairly easy work but the hard part is rak­ing up and cart­ing away the de­bris. I leave it ly­ing in the sun for a few days for leaves to shrivel as they dry. This makes them fairly light for rak­ing into heaps for easy lift­ing and re­moval us­ing a strong gar­den fork.

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