Sharpening my pruning katana as we speak
December 4, 2007 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Help this young grasshopper become a tree pruning ninja.

The good news is that the previous owner of our house had the foresight to plant a lot of cool trees and shrubs 20 years ago (primarily ficus, oleander, and acacia). The bad news is that he was terrible at pruning and we seem to have inherited every conceivable problem...tree branches growing against the house, ugly dead wood in the center, wild overgrown tangles, and lack of leaves in many shaded areas to name a few.

'Tis the season for pruning in Arizona and I want to learn how to be really good at it. As in, Japanese garden good. Does anyone have any recommendations for really good books on the subject? Or other ways to learn how to do it right? I can find some basic info on the web but I want to go far more in depth.
posted by TungstenChef to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
just a basic tip. working as a landscaper in college, my boss told me to "prune for the future", meaning clip branches a few inches back from where you want it, and let it grow into place.
posted by gnutron at 1:25 PM on December 4, 2007

Many state extension offices have tipsheets and such for species-specific (!) pruning techniques. I dug around a little and found this, which might be useful.
posted by jquinby at 1:39 PM on December 4, 2007

I can only speak of the oleander, but they are almost impossible to kill by over-pruning. You can cut close to half of everything on an oleander and it will only come back more wonderful and blossomy the next year. You are also supposed to be able to stick the cut off parts in a pail of water to get them growing roots, but I haven't tried them. Oleanders are quite poisonous, so be careful when you are dealing with the sap (and everything else) and thoroughly clean your pruning utensil before going from pruning oleanders to some other type of plant. Also, there is a disease that causes a withering in oleanders. If you have that on any one plant, do not cut a new plant without cleaning the pruners or you might infect another healthy plant.
posted by 45moore45 at 2:17 PM on December 4, 2007

See if you can get an arboriculture text book from the library, something like this should be good.
Also, you might want to go to your local college and ask one of the instructors in the landscape management program if they would be willing to give you a few tips.
posted by nprigoda at 5:51 PM on December 4, 2007

I didn't even think of the county extension service, but their web site lead to a treasure trove of information. That arboriculture book is going to find a place on my bookshelf too. Thanks for the help!
posted by TungstenChef at 11:19 PM on December 4, 2007

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