A haircut for your landscaping

By Candace BridgewaterMy Nassau Sun Logo

Most of us get a haircut from time to time. We return to a stylist we trust or we search for the best price, hoping to be, at least, satisfied with our choice.
The plants and trees in our landscapes also depend on "haircuts," or pruning, to look their best. In pruning, as in cosmetology, the best results come from a professional. Experienced arborists are well worth the investment as damage to a poorly cut tree lasts far longer than a disappointing hair trim.
Properly shaped trees keep dangerous limbs from roofs and car tops, allow traffic to pass underneath, put more sunlight on lawns and shrubs, often produce more flowers or fruits, and improve views. The University of Florida Extension Service offers a "life pruning plan" for shade trees at hort.ufl.edu/woody/Plan.html.
We prune for a variety of reasons, including improving the structural integrity of the tree, thinning the canopy, reducing tree size, raising the canopy, cleaning, and restoring damaged trees. The main tenets of pruning, according to the Web site, are:
- Establish and maintain a dominant leader by subordinating all but one main stem.
- Space main scaffold limbs apart by removing or shortening nearby branches.
- Anticipate future form and function by training and pruning early to avoid cutting large branches later. Avoid removing large branches because this initiates decay into the trunk.
- Position the lowest main scaffold limb high enough so it will not droop and be removed later.
- Prevent all branches from growing larger than half the trunk diameter.

Pruning Cuts
The colorful crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is widely used and nearly always abused in our landscapes. Crape myrtles have an attractive, beautiful natural structure even during winter bareness. Gorgeous as it greens up in the spring, full of flowers in the summer, and splendid in its autumn colors the plant is often cut back to stubs, "hatracked" into submission, and cleared of its leaves before they can glow in the fall.
Trees and shrubs can be pruned lightly any time of year, taking care not to remove buds on spring flowering shrubs and trees before bloom. Crape myrtle, hibiscus and roses are best pruned while dormant or just prior to new spring growth. Large shade trees like oak and hickory should be pruned while dormant or just following a spring growth flush.
The Nassau County Extension Service is offering two free demonstrations of pruning practices:
- 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Demonstration Garden at the James S. Page Governmental Complex, on Nassau Place, Yulee.
- 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 26, at the Yulee Home Depot Garden Shop.

Candace Bridgewater lives on Amelia Island and is an active Master Gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS. Master Gardeners serve under the direction of Rebecca L. Jordi, UF/IFAS Nassau County Horticultural Extension Agent.
Master Gardener volunteers are trained by County Horticultural Extension agents and are required to serve 75 volunteer hours in the first year of their accreditation and 35 volunteer hours annually in all subsequent years, to maintain their certification as Master Gardeners. For information on the Master Gardener program and application requirements, contact Rebecca Jordi, Horticultural Extension Agent at 548-1116, or rljordi@ufl.edu.




Candace Bridegwater

Candace Bridgewater lives on Amelia Island
is an active Master Gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.