Well, November is here again and those once leafy and graceful trees will now stand naked and somewhat dreary until they awake next spring, but please don’t turn a blind eye to them as the next few months is the ideal time to carry out that heavier pruning work that will pay dividends next summer and beyond.
The majority of our deciduous trees are now dormant, so November until February (climate depending) is the time to carry out the work that would otherwise cause too much stress in the growing season. Consider removing any damaged, rubbing or crossing branches as well as thinning the canopy or evening lop-sided growth. Also look to remove co-dominant leaders or competition from surrounding plants. Where the branches being removed may become heavy or hazardous it is always best to seek the advice or services of a qualified arborist or tree surgeon (our list of services maybe found here). Always make pruning cuts back to a suitable growing point, making effort to never leave stubs or rips, and always consider the future growth of the tree rather than the immediate effect. Be aware that very hard pruning may cause prolific sucker growth in the next growing season, and practices such as ‘topping‘ are never advised due to their negative effect of a trees future habit, safety and overall health.
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The following has been taken from Crocus.co.uk, a link to which can be found at the bottom of the page.
The dormant season is the time to prune acers because they tend to bleed heavily at other times. Any time between November and February is ideal. Specimen trees such as A. davidii, A. negundo, A saccharinum, A. campestre, A. griseum and A. platanoides should develop a central leader with a well- balanced head of branches. Remove badly positioned, crossing or rubbing shoots and branches and cut out any twiggy growth from the clear trunk under the canopy to show off the bark to best effect. Acers grown as multi-stemmed trees on a short trunk, such as A. palmatum, should require very little pruning other than to remove frost-damaged and weak shoots, as well as any badly positioned, crossing or rubbing stems.
Aesculus (horse chestnut)
All horse chestnuts should be trained as a single-leader standard. Little routine pruning is required other than the removal of crossing or damaged branches. Lateral branches that form low down on the stem should be removed as the tree matures to leave a clear trunk up to 2-3m high to provide sufficient room for the naturally downward-curving branches. All pruning should be carried out after leaf fall.
Most alders naturally form multi-stemmed trees, but also can be trained as single-leader standards. Prune and train in autumn by selecting a suitable leader and then removing lower branches gradually as the tree develops up to a height of about 2m. Thereafter, little routine pruning is required other than the removal of crossing or damaged branches. All pruning should be carried out after leaf fall.
Train young chestnuts as single-leader standards so that they form the classical domed-shaped canopy as they mature. Thereafter, little routine pruning is required other than the removal of crossing or damaged branches. Lateral branches that form low down on the stem should be removed as the tree matures to leave a clear trunk up to 3m. More serious renovation of mature specimens should only be carried out by a trained professional tree surgeon.
Crataegus (hawthorn, May)
The ideal time to prune hawthorn is once the fruit has been eaten by resident birds and other garden wildlife, but before early spring. Most forms require minimal pruning, other than the removal of broken, diseased or crossing branches. Encourage them to form a single-leader standard tree by removing lower branches as the tree matures until there is a clear trunk about 2m high. Alternatively, cut back a recently planted hawthorn to encourage it to produce a multi-stemmed tree ideal for use in a naturalistic planting or wild area of the garden. Trim hedges in summer.
Eucalyptus (gum tree)
Eucalyptus gunnii grown for its ornamental juvenile foliage will need pruning now. Cut back all new growth annually on both coppiced and pollarded specimens. Specimen trees that require pruning to maintain the balance of the canopy can also be tackled now. They also respond well to heavy pruning, so if a tree becomes top-heavy it can be cut back, lopped or topped before growth starts in spring.
Leave new trees unpruned except to remove broken stems or to balance the canopy. Once very well established (say, six years after planting), remove the lower side branches when it is dormant – spreading the pruning over a period of several years. If there are competing leaders, this can spoil the overall shape and balance of the tree as it grows, so remove the weakest. Larger trees can benefit from having the lowest branches removed so that the naturally drooping branches are clear of the ground. In time, raise the canopy to about 2m. Purple beech can produce reverted green shoots from time to time and these should be removed completely. Weeping beech should have any uncharacteristic growth removed and once the branches reach the ground they can be cut back to a healthy bud. Take care not to cut all branches to the same length so that the appearance remains natural. Hedges are best pruned in mid-winter or mid-summer.
Most ash trees will form an attractive, well-balanced canopy without intervention and so require no pruning other than the removal of crossing or wind-damaged branches. Do this now before new growth starts. Young trees should also be encouraged to produce a clear trunk, so remove lower side branches to gradually raise the canopy as the tree grows. Weeping standards of F. excelsior ‘Pendula’ should only be pruned to remove crossing stems or thinning out congested branches. Take care not to over thin and open up the canopy too much, aiming for evenly spaced branches right around the crown where it joins the main stem.
The tree specific pruning information above was taken from Crocus.co.uk and can be viewed in full here.