Pruning trees is a delicate art, and in a city where trees are mingling closely with local architecture, pruning is absolutely necessary. Pruning can be done to remove obstructing or damaged branches, to reduce the tree’s height, to permit new growth, and to improve a tree’s aesthetics. Sometimes, branches that are necessary to prune aren’t always the ones you would eliminate for aesthetic purposes, and vice versa. Perfect pruning is usually a balancing act between the two incentives.
WHEN TO PRUNE
The best time to prune is in the dormant season, when dead branches reveal themselves without a curtain of foliage. Removing branches always puts a certain amount of strain upon a tree, but doing so in the winter minimizes sap loss and makes it easiest for the tree to recover. It also minimizes the risk of fungal infections and insect infestations, given that these pests are likely to be dormant in the winter, too. With deciduous trees and shrubs, it’s also easiest to tell how pruning will affect the overall shape when the leaves are gone.
PREPARING TO PRUNE
For small treesand shrubs, there are two basic tools: (1) a foldable pruning saw and (2) a portable buck saw. Be advised that diseases are easily spread from one tree to another by infected tools, so always disinfect your tools with a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water.
The most important concept to master as you visualize the job is to prune as little as possible. Living branches should compose at least two-thirds of the overall tree height.
BASIC PRUNING PRINCIPLES
To ensure the safety of your tree, you’ll want to prune away only the unwanted branch while protecting the stem and trunk of the tree. In between the branch and the tree stem is a lip of tissue called a “stem collar.” Proper pruning should be done on the outside of the stem collar, where the branch begins and the stem collar ends.
Although any form of pruning puts a tree under some measure of stress, it’s entirely possible to do so without incurring damage if you follow the right practices. And in an urban environment like Chicago, pruning is necessary for both aesthetic and practical purposes. For the best possible results, and to incur the least potential damage to your trees, consult a landscape specialist. Get in touch with Botanical Concepts Chicago for more info.