“The purpose of pruning is to improve the quality of the roses, not to hurt the bush.” ~ Florence Littauer
This might be one of the more boring posts I’ll be writing this year. Well…not boring to me, but maybe boring for you. Sorry. Anyways. When one plants an orchard and enters into the world of rose cultivation, one also chooses to either learn a lot about pruning or fail miserably at producing fruit and beautiful flowers. I know most people understand the importance of pruning in order to encourage and protect the health of the tree/bush. I am definitely aware of this plus all the reasons why it’s not just necessary but vital. Something changes, though, when you are standing there in front of your beloved rose or fruit tree with clippers in your hand.
So I laughed at myself when I went to prune my roses and timidly snipped a few branches here and there but mostly left them untouched. I knew to cut off all the spent blossoms (it’s called dead heading) but I felt bad taking off all the leaves. It was hard to snip off viable healthy branches. Sigh. Luckily, there is a house on the way to my grandparents house in which lives someone who is an expert at roses. Every year they have probably 60 different varieties of roses that are just gorgeous. This year I noticed those lovely huge bushes have been pruned back to short, stumpy, twiggy, pathetic little things. Oh. That’s what a properly pruned rose actually looks like. “Self,” I said, “We’ve got work to do.”
My inner horticulturist is holding her breath, waiting for spring and summer to prove that this whole pruning thing is actually good for my
babiesroses. You have to understand, I’m still very new to this world.
Ruthless hacking is easier with my trees for some reason. Seeing a tree that looks like this? It’s like, “game on.”
First off, these suckers that grow out of the root stock all have to go. Modern fruit tree cultivation involves grafting fruit bearing bits to the root bits. That way you can start to get the best of a lot of different worlds. The roots want to send up their own leaders though, and you really want to encourage the roots to send all the good stuff to the limbs that were grafted to grow better fruit.
Next is removing any branches that are crossing back into the middle of the tree or that will cross with other branches. I focus on balancing the over all shape of the branches and take ones that don’t provide balance or will cause problems later.
Some of my trees had issues last season and since this spring is shaping up to be just as wet as last year I want to give them the best shot possible. It’s already going to be a bit of a battle with bugs and fungus and blight, so I wrapped trunks that were looking vulnerable.
Speaking of a vulnerable tree…
We have no idea what happened to this granny smith. It’s always been tiny and has always struggled. One morning after the goats escaped we came out to round them up and saw the tree looking like this. We figured it would die. It didn’t. Despite its utter lack of robust-ness…it’s not dead yet. I didn’t prune this guy, but I made sure it’s trunk is still wrapped. Honestly, I’m really hoping that it beats the odds and lives to be 50 years old and is the perfect bench tree for my grand-babies to read on and climb.
Every tree gets a hair cut. I know this isn’t the clearest before and after but all 10 got cleaned up and are ready for spring. Here’s to another year of learning how to grow fruit and take care of the plants that will be a part of my life for years to come!