Few jobs in the garden are surrounded by as much fear and dread as pruning. While there are many myths surrounding the art, the most important thing to remember is that there are very few plants which can be killed by improper pruning. The worst case scenario is usually that you will leave a once beautiful plant looking rather butchered.
When pruning shrubs and trees a little bit of knowledge goes a long way, but a bit of common sense will allow you to do a perfectly adequate job.
The first thing to do when planning a pruning project is to assess the size of the project in hand. In the case of large trees it is always advisable to consult a professional because of the danger of personal or structural damage being caused by falling timber. It is also important when planning pruning to have the right tools for the job and to use only good quality sharp secatures which make clean cuts.
When cutting back a shrub or a tree a good starting point is to remove all dead and diseased wood. Then remove any crossing and rubbing branches at the centre of the plant. By opening up the centre of the plant in this way we improve the circulation of air thus reducing the build up of disease and other garden pests. At this time of year it is also usually a good idea to remove any low hanging branches from trees, as these can prove a nuisance when cutting the lawn during the summer.
Many perennial plants can also be cut back hard now, allowing new shoots to emerge in the spring time and providing a good foundation for summer borders teaming with flowers.
Following a pruning session it is vitally important that all leaves and branches are raked up and disposed of. Any debris left lying around the garden can provide a breeding ground for all manner of garden pests.