Woody plants don’t need any help from our saws and secateurs. They would all produce much more growth if we just left them all alone. So why don’t we abandon them to their feral origins? Forsythia, Calycanthus and Winterberry, just to name a few, most definitely look their best when we let them go wild. That’s the point, isn’t it, to look their best.
Unfortunately, the majority of our cultivated garden woodies need a little help to get ready for the party, and some need to freshen up several times during it. So, we prune plants to control their shape, size, flower production, fruit production, density, cast shadows, let in light, obscure light etc. We do this solely for our own amusement, but the results can make an enormous impact in our landscape. Sometimes the effects are sublime.
Unless you are a gardener familiar with good pruning practices, you may not recognize their effect in the garden. The woody plants will appear handsome, well shaped, symmetrical or amorphous yet balanced. The common observer will think these plants grew naturally into these forms. However, when woody plants are left unpruned, their messiness will be noticed, and you, as the garden steward, will get the blame. It’s like making and implementing a decision that avoids a disaster: no one sees the disaster prevention happening, so your good judgement and actions go unnoticed. That’s okay…you know what you did and people with a discerning eye will also know. Good pruning elevates your landscape to another level and it’s never too late to start.