When you decide to decorate your landscape with trees and shrubs, there are upsides and downsides. The upside is that your property will have color and texture, and will actually have increased value. The downside is that in order to maintain the visual aesthetics and value, those trees and shrubs have to be meticulously attended to on a routine basis. The problem with that is that many homeowners are not confident about their pruning abilities, nor should they be unless they have extensive experience with this particular task. Improper pruning can have serious consequences for the plant, which is why we highly recommend leaving the job to your landscape professionals. However, there are some tips we can offer those of you who just have some minor pruning to complete. With the right tools and the right techniques, you can help keep your trees and shrubs in perfect health and shape, and in turn, keep your landscape looking spectacular all season long. Okay, yes, pruning CAN be kind of frightening if you do not know what you are doing. But just as with everything else, practice makes perfect. You may want to start small – perhaps practice your pruning technique on a small indoor tree or even a more resilient outdoor shrub. The idea is to train on a plant that will not suffer greatly if you prune too much, which can easily happen. A properly pruned plant is a healthy plant, so you want to learn as much as you can about the art form. But why prune at all? Of course there is the aesthetic appeal. You want your ornamentals to accent your garden and overall property. However, pruning has several beneficial effects on the plant itself. When you prune your plant, the flow of water and nutrients throughout the plant’s vascular system is greatly improved. It also permits thriving areas of the plant to receive the most moisture and sustenance while those areas of the plant that are not performing very well are removed, no longer using up what can be directed toward the stronger parts of the tree or shrub. It is difficult to describe specific techniques because each plant is unique and the approach is also unique. But what we can recommend is that you employ the best tools for the job. Landscaping experts stress the importance of not utilizing cheap tools. While they may be more costly, high quality pruning shears, loppers, saws, and hand pruners are an asset and should be thought of as an investment in the overall well-being of your landscape. Tools that are sturdier are going to stay sharp for an extended amount of time, and will also deliver a more defined and healthy cut. Higher quality tools will also last for an extended amount of time, so the higher price you pay may seem a lot initially, but you will not have to keep replacing the tools. Now that you have high quality tools, make sure to keep them sharp. The sharper a pruning tool, the less stress your hands and arms will undergo when trying to cut through thicker branches. A sharpened tool will also deliver a healthier cut. While pruning is beneficial to a tree or shrub, it is still a small trauma from which the tree or shrub must heal. If you think about a cut on our own skin, one that is “clean” will heal better than if the cut were caused by something jagged and rusty. There would be an increased risk of infection and it would probably result in an unattractive scar. The same thinking goes for a tree or shrub. The cleaner the cut, the quicker the tree or shrub will be restored to health, and the less likely there will be any scarring. Last but not least, keep your pruning tools clean. As with any tool, you want to make sure it is free from debris and gunk. However, it is also important to clean the blades before beginning to prune a different plant. Again, using ourselves as an example, if a surgeon is going to operate on a different patient, he will not use the same tools because they can spread disease and bacteria. The same theory applies with pruning tools because each plant has its own unique make up of bacteria. In addition, if the plant has a disease you are not aware of, you can transmit that disease to another plant by using sheers that have not been properly cleansed. Landscape technicians recommend wiping the blades with rubbing alcohol to eliminate any bacteria. You will also want to make sure you clean them well before putting them away after your pruning is complete.