Pruning Mystery Solved

The one aspect of garden maintenance that generates the most questions is the topic of pruning. When? Where? How? For what purpose? Welcome to our world.
The idea of cutting green tissue from a living plant can seem offensive. Do we cut peoples arms and legs off (not without good reason)? No. So, why is it ok to chop away portions of a plant?
The answers include: to produce more blossoms and fruit, to encourage more growth, and to control growth to fit the environment and our personal, outdoor space.
On the first point, fruit bearing perennial plants like fruit trees, strawberries, raspberries, and the like, all need pruning from time to time to maximize their fruit bearing potential.
Right now, raspberries, which finished fruiting a couple of weeks ago, benefit from pruning about one third of the current height and the dead canes removed to the root. Unless they are fall-bearing raspberries, which perform best with early spring pruning.
Ben’s Grandpa Len would set his lawnmower as high as it would go this time of year and run it over his strawberries. Come November, after a remarkable recovery on the part of the plants, he would mulch them with straw (thus the name ‘strawberries’) and remove it early May the following season for a great crop. While a lawnmower might seem drastic, it is effective. And isn’t cutting the lawn a form of pruning anyway?
Most fruit trees prefer to be pruned in late winter (apples) or early spring (most other fruiting trees).
Thickening the growth of an evergreen or hardwood tree can be achieved by pruning this time of year. A spruce, pine, fir, cedar, or juniper that is sheared for shape now, will fill out in September when the second flush of growth occurs. A cedar hedge responds very well to late summer pruning. You can prune an old evergreen, but if all you see after you cut back an established cedar hedge is exposed wood, it will look ugly for several years. Cutting out old wood in an evergreen is okay provided you maintain an outwardly green appearance.
On the third point, about pruning to fit the environment, we recommend that you cut back hardwood trees like birch, maples, beech, and oaks this time of year. They will respond to late summer pruning by thickening up during the second flush of new growth come September.
Where to cut an established tree or evergreen is simple: where a minor stem meets the main stem or trunk of the plant. A maple tree produces multiple branches from the main trunk or large lateral branches: prune back to the base of the branch you wish to remove. You will not hurt the tree but if the stem is thick, and heavy consider calling a professional who is trained in tree pruning. A qualified professional is properly insured for the work while you may not be.
Shrubs that enjoy a late summer haircut include dogwood, purple sand cherry, lilacs, burning bush, and all spring and early summer flowering woody shrubs. The ones that bloom now, like hydrangea, and rose of sharon are best pruned in spring.
However, it is always a good idea to remove spent blossoms on roses, butterfly bush, and weigelia to encourage repeat blossoms late this fall.
It is not as complicated as it sounds, but it is useful to have the knowledge about when, how, and why pruning is a good idea.
Always use sharp, clean, quality tools to manage the appearance and performance of trees, shrubs, and evergreens. Use a 10% bleach/90% water solution to clean blades between pruning, to avoid spreading disease between plants. And do not hesitate to give it a go. Despite your best instincts, pruning trees and shrubs can enhance the appearance of your garden and, with them properly under control, make living with them more pleasurable.