Dormant or Winter Pruning

For many of you, this post is too late–it’s already balmy and warm where you are. (Beam me there, would you?)

But for those of you still experiencing cold weather–or snow over the tops of your boots, as I was when I did this pruning at the beginning of the month–now is exactly the time to be pruning certain trees and shrubs that are still dormant.

In fact, now is about the only time to be pruning certain very disease or insect prone shrubs like our native dogwood, cornus florida, and the lovely weeping cherries (mine is prunus subhirtella x ‘Snow Fountain’ but there are other varieties).

Unfortunately it had been a few years since I’d pruned–probably the last time was 2009 or 2010 so these trees were in pretty sore need of some pruning and thinning.

And of course, I did not think to take “before” photos.  Suffice it to say that I took 5 loads of brush off the weeping cherry alone!  And a few of the branches are still stuck in the snow bank; I’ll have to remove them when it melts a bit more.

Here’s the after photo:

pruned weeping cherry The fresh cuts should be visible on some of the larger branches. I had to take some of them off with a saw–my lopper wasn’t even large enough.  Let’s hope this teaches me to prune more often.

The dogwood, fortunately, didn’t need as much attention since nature had done some pruning for me in that huge wet snowstorm in October 2011.  I was really just cleaning up after the water sprouts that grew as a result of that storm damage.

dogwood water sprouts 

For those not familiar with the term, “water sprouts” are pretty much vertical and fairly non-vegetative growth.  There’s a huge knot of them on the lowest branch in the foreground of this photo.  They result from a lot of things: damage to a branch, drought, improper pruning (all of which we had in 2012 since the storm improperly pruned the tree).

Some trees are more prone to them than others. Dogwoods are very prone.

One Friday I’ll specifically discuss pruning japanese maples.  Mine hadn’t been done in the same amount of time and again, were in dire need.   Pruning really helps them put on new growth in the spring.

4 thoughts on “Dormant or Winter Pruning

  1. Debbie March 11, 2013 / 7:19 pm

    I did some pruning this weekend, too. I had lots of water spouts on a plum tree that have been bothering me all winter long. I did a little pruning of my japanese maples but couldn’t quite muster the strength for tackling the forsythia.

  2. gardendaze March 13, 2013 / 9:54 am

    I don’t blame you–forsythia can be a bear to wrestle with, particularly is you’ve still got snow.

    It’s funny how some trees are so prone to water sprouts and others almost never do it.

    Then I have a crab apple that I have to prune 2-3 times a summer. It sends up those little shoots from the base. So annoying. Oh well, at least we’re never bored.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.


  3. Tree Pruning Brooklyn March 14, 2013 / 2:16 pm

    Winter pruning is a little bit more difficult since it has dried out branches that are more breakable and hard on the inside. Great tutorial on how to prune though!

    -Samudaworth Tree Service

  4. gardendaze March 14, 2013 / 2:50 pm

    Thanks for your comment. I like winter pruning because I can see what I’m doing without the leaves in the way. Also, there aren’t quite so many other “chores” distracting me. But you’re right, there were some brittle branches. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

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