Remedial pruning is practiced when a plant has become too large for its site. This can happen because the garden design has changed but more frequently it is because of Pruning ‘fear’ – the worry that we will do harm to the plant. This fear is real, as few people have the chance to experience pruning in these kinds of diverse scenarios for trees, shrubs and fruiting plants.
If we prune an overgrown shrub too heavily it will be shocked. As a result, it will respond in one of two ways – it will go into decline and quite possibly die or instead throw up many shoots and suckers to replace the lost limbs. Neither scenario is what we want. Therefore, it is important to remove select limbs over a period of 3 to 5 years so that the root system responds in a measured and predicable form to the plant’s new role in the garden. It is important to do this limb removal during dormant times and not during times of growth as the plant is then more able to adapt when it initiates growth in the spring.
Pruning is an art – to do it well we need to ‘read’ the circumstances of each plant and create a plan that will help the plant adapt, rather than simply respond to limb removal. A plant which is showing stress or abnormal growth as a result of over pruning at one time will not give us the pleasure that we want in the garden we put such effort and care into creating.