Lifting & limbing – the before and after of careful pruning

1) This garden aspect is generally all right but you would not look twice at it. The large tree is a weeping cherry, Prunus subhirtella pendula. The fact that the left hand tree, a malus or flowering crabapple, has no leaves on it in high summer is a bit of a giveaway. It is dead.

2) The malus is showing fresh growth at its base but as we knew it was a grafted plant, this is just the root stock growing away.

3) Spend some time working out which branches need to be removed. You can’t glue branches back on and it is surprisingly easy to make a mistake. We are taking off the lower branches and a few higher ones which extend too far over the adjacent gardens. We used a squirt of paint to mark the branches destined for the chop.

4) Make an initial cut underneath the branch. This prevents the branch from ripping off and damaging the bark when you cut from above.

5) Cut close to the trunk or main stems. Don’t leave ugly stumps which resemble protruding coat hooks. There are different schools of thought about whether wounds need to be painted with an antibacterial paint. In this case we have coated the wounds but we don’t usually bother.

6) The dead malus has been removed entirely, even the main stump. If you can get most of the root ball out, it reduces the chance of honey fungus or armillaria getting established on the rotting roots and potentially spreading to surrounding trees. The cherry tree now has a more pleasing shape and it is possible to see beyond the tree and to notice other garden features in the same view. Successful pruning is often discreet – quite a bit of material is removed without it being obvious where it has come from.