The degree of pruning can vary from the simple removal of leaves and dried flowers to the removal of entire branches. However, it is better not to prune at all than to make the wrong pruning because in some cases this could seriously damage the plant and even dry it completely. If done by expert hands, radical pruning is sometimes necessary to save a plant.
It could be argued that in the wild the plants bloom and grow naturally, in fact twigs and flowers dry and fall on their own, and it is true but pruning does nothing but accelerate this process.
Plants should be pruned at different times of the year which may vary in relation to latitude; for example the same plant will be pruned in central Italy ten days later than in the south, while in the north the difference from the south could be even two or three weeks.
The main objective of pruning is to increase flowering and production, but also to pursue a certain balance between development and flowering is of fundamental importance in order to keep the plant vigorous and healthy.
For this purpose it is necessary a vigorous annual pruning for some plants, for others instead a light pruning "of beauty" will be sufficient, that is what is enough to keep the plant in shape removing only the dry or weak branches and limiting itself to controlling the general form through small interventions.
A separate discussion must be made for trimming the hedges which, as we know, is a real art: topiary art. In fact in this case a radical and precise pruning must be practiced at the time of planting, always monitoring growth and intervening on time and accurately in order to have the desired effect.
How to prune
Before starting the pruning operation it is necessary to consider the quality of the plant and its characteristics as well as learning a minimum knowledge of plant structures.
In general, most woody plants have an apical bud at the end of each branch, which exercises the so-called "apical dominance" which is expressed in a more significant growth compared to lateral buds; this dominance varies according to the species. If it were cut it would consequently produce a greater growth of the lateral buds, therefore when cutting a branch it is first necessary to consider which gem should be developed to produce the new branch, and make the cut close to it.
It is therefore of fundamental importance to know how to perform a correct pruning cut.
First of all it is necessary to identify a healthy gem placed at the point from which we would like to grow the branch, almost always we choose an external gem to have a branch that is directed towards the outside and not towards the inside, then with the shears we practice a oblique cut, from bottom to top, starting from the opposite side to the gem and ending just above it: not too low to touch it, nor too high to leave more than a few millimeters; the oblique cut will prevent the stagnation of water on the gem.
In the same way we will proceed to cut also in the case in which we must simply cut dry branches or however to be eliminated but, especially on a woody branch, the cut must be done near a healthy branch and so that the surface that remains exposed is minimum to avoid the penetration of diseases. Wounds larger than 2 cm in diameter should be treated with a healing product to prevent possible infections.
Types of pruning
Most of the plants, be they trees or shrubs, benefit from a good "training" pruning over time. Here too: for some it is sufficient to have minimal interventions, for others it is necessary to follow with subsequent interventions the initial growth of the plant, especially if it concerns shrubs that must lean against a fence or climbing plants to lean against the wall. As for the saplings, it is necessary to check that there are no branches that are too weak or that have a double terminal jet or branches in an unfavorable position: already as children they must grow up straight and harmonious to have them so even when they are older.
Given that water and nourishment are essential for having a healthy plant, pruning is also essential for this purpose, in fact when the plants are in poor condition they are more easily attacked by pests and diseases. For this purpose it is necessary to make a cut that involves the elimination of dry, weak, sick, too intricate branches and placed inside the plant where the light fails to arrive, therefore leaving strong, solid and sparse branches so that it can circulate air and light that will facilitate the growth of strong and vigorous jets.
Then there is pruning to give shape to the "maintenance" plant or pruning which must aim to obtain a symmetrical and harmonious plant. However, great care must be taken because when a tree appears asymmetrical there is obviously a more vigorous part than the rest. Not for this reason the predominant part must be cut vigorously but rather always remember that where the development is weak the pruning is radical, where the development is strong pruning is light. Therefore, by making a radical cut on the most vigorous part, we will only increase its vigor and aggravate the problem by using light pruning instead.
To apply a "fruiting" pruning it is essential to know if the plant we are working on is blooming on the vegetation of the year or on that of the previous year. For example, if we are dealing with one of the second type, cutting the branches every year we will never have the flowers and therefore not even the fruits.
To prune different tools are needed because the types of plants on which to act are very different, both in terms of quality and consistency.
The scissors are the main tool and there are three types: with straight-cut blade, with a curved blade, with two curved blades. All must be used in the same way: the stem to be cut must be brought closer to the base of the open scissors and never cut with the tips. There are also scissors with long handles to act as a lever when very old or large branches are to be cut.
Finally the gardener's saw that exists in two versions: with a serrated blade or with two serrated blades, the second more difficult to use is used by experienced gardeners.
It is important to always use good quality tools and keep them in good condition, cleaning them carefully after use, oil them to avoid rust and disinfecting them so as not to favor the infection among the plants.
Finally, in terms of pruning, it is appropriate to know that topping, that is, those drastic cuts that cut away practically all the foliage and that we often see applied along the streets of our cities, are necessary in very few cases while causing the plant many problems: they leave large cutting surfaces exposed to diseases, the plant weakens due to the high effort required, moreover some trees produce suckers at the base to have leaves with which to feed themselves, others fail to produce them and dry quickly.