All of our garden managers and landscape management staff at Surrounds share a commitment to our signature methods of holistic landscape care and to honoring the landscape design. They understand that they are responsible for fulfilling the landscape architect’s vision.
There are many facets to landscape management that require horticultural knowledge and a specialized skill set from the crews who perform day to day garden care. Pruning at the right time and in the right way is essential to the art of holistic landscape management and garden care.
Why Expert Pruning is Essential to a Successful Landscape Management Program
Pruning stimulates growth, admits air and light into the interior of plants, removes broken or diseased parts, and guides the plant into filling out its natural shape. Regular pruning contributes to plant health and garden aesthetics as follows:
- Control height and width of plants
- Guide growth pattern and natural shape
- Prevent overgrowth (which can cause disease or breakage)
- Boost flower production
- Optimize limb structure for strength
Our garden managers do almost all of their pruning by hand because hand pruning, also called “punch pruning,” is healthier for the plant. You have probably seen other landscape management companies racing around a property using shears. That technique is faster, but it only trims off the new growth on the exterior of a plant. Over time, the interior of the plant may become overgrown and densely packed. Light and air can’t penetrate. And that can cause disease.
“We train our crews to anticipate what the plant is going to do,” says garden manager Tom Kniezewski. “If you know a shrub typically grows 18” during the season, and you want to keep it at windowsill height when it’s blooming, then you cut it back 18″ below the sill while it is still dormant.”
This makes a big difference because, if your landscape management people wait until the plant emerges from dormancy and starts growing, they end up trimming off the new growth every month, continually shearing the plant to control the height–which causes it to get thick and unhealthy. If you prune it back appropriately before it starts to grow, then the plant will fill out naturally, and you just have to give it some touch-up pruning to keep it looking nice.
We do what we call rejuvenation pruning. We train our landscape management crews to see how the plant is going to grow through the season and then prune it back hard in the spring. That way we only have to do minimal pruning during the year. Tom Kniezewski, Garden Manager
Pruning Techniques Used in Landscape Management
Your garden maintenance people need to understand which limbs to cut, and where, and which to leave alone. They will employ a variety of techniques depending on the type of plant and the objective of the pruning process. Terms for common pruning techniques include:
Heading: Cutting long, single stems above a healthy bud. This encourages lower branches to bush out.
Cutbacks: Cutting plants to the ground during dormancy to stimulate vigorous spring growth from the base. Roses and butterfly bushes benefit from this dramatic treatment because it keeps them compact and able to produce more blooms.
Thinning: Also referred to as punch pruning, this technique opens up the middle of the plant to admit more sunlight–which keeps the interior branches healthy and encourages new growth.
Shearing: Trimming the plant around the outside to maintain a manicured shape and structure.
The way Kniezewski sees it, it’s all about how you apply the techniques. The guiding principle for him and his landscape management crews is what he calls “design intent.” How does this plant fit into the landscape? Is it meant to join with others into a hedge? If it’s an ornamental tree, are we trying to maintain symmetry among multiple trees of the same shape? Is this plant intended to drape over a walkway and soften the edges? The answers to these questions arise from a thorough understanding of the landscape design style, the natural tendencies of the plant, and the preference of the client.
Here are a couple of examples of pruning techniques that compliment the growth patterns of a specific plant:
Example 1: Roses
In early spring we start thinning them out, reducing their size, preparing them to put on new growth. This practice rejuvenates the plant. Getting rid of old, dead material lets them breathe and bush back out.
In this case, we are pruning in anticipation of what we expect that plant to look like in July. If it’s a shrub rose, we may want them to bush out full and low. If it’s climbing a trellis, we want to anticipate how high and how much spreading we want to see. A shrub rose will push out 18 to 22 inches of new growth each a year. Knowing this, you can decide where you want to keep it and prune it accordingly.
It’s imperative to get your roses caned back early in the season. You can cut them to the ground if you want. Roses are tough. They look like they are delicate, but they are tough plants. Tom Kniezewski
Example 2: Fruit Trees & Bushes
Edibles are becoming very popular among clients and in the industry. Growers have come out with new cultivars that look attractive and produce edible fruit. They’re breeding them for aesthetic appeal as well as fruit production. Pruning is critical to the successful growth of fruit trees. We are pruning to maximize fruit production, and for structural strength, so the tree can support the weight of its fruit.
Artful Pruning Requires Expertise and Finesse
You never want the landscape to actually look trimmed. That’s the hard part. You are constantly doing little tweaks to keep plants at the desired size but retain its natural form and beauty. Tom Kniezewski
Remember this: Your landscape management people should not be shearing everything—even if your gardens are formal style. It’s not necessary. You can have the same formal look without putting a set of shears on it.
Pruning is one of the best things you can do for your shrubs. Well-pruned shrubs will grow fuller with a more attractive shape, produce more flowers, and be healthier overall. And artful pruning takes your landscape to the next level turning it into the balanced and captivating work of art it is intended to be.
If you’d like to discuss the possibility of taking your landscaping to the next level, please schedule a consultation with one of our landscape management specialists.