If you grow these wonderful fruit trees, the best time to prune them is now - in winter - or in very early spring before any new growth begins. Pruning not only helps to develop proper shape and form, but also encourages new growth, promotes high fruit yield, and maintains good tree health. At the farm, I have both apple and pear trees that are pruned regularly. My arborists at SavATree visit each winter specifically to prune the larger fruit trees, while my outdoor grounds crew helps to tackle the smaller ones. And, each summer, we see the wonderful fruits of all their labor.
Enjoy these photos.
I have many, many apple trees at the farm, and a good number of them are at least 50-years old, so they were already here when I purchased the property.
My outdoor grounds crew is busy pruning the apple trees behind the Contemporary House.
They already pruned quite a bit – these branches will be chipped and reused in the garden later.
Chhewang has become an excellent pruner, and oversees a lot of the smaller tree pruning projects at the farm.
Smaller twigs are snipped off with regular secateurs. Each member of my outdoor grounds crew has their own pair.
And of course, we love Okatsune Hand Pruners, with their distinguishable red and white handles. These eight-inch long shears are made from Izumo Yasuki Japanese steel, and are angled to provide a smooth, clean cut without crushing. Ours come from A.M. Leonard.
Pruning encourages the tree to grow more of these fruiting spurs by eliminating competing suckers and unproductive wood.
Removing the competing tree branches also helps to let in light and promote good air circulation.
Here, Chhewang uses a pruning hand saw for lower branches that are tougher to cut with regular hand pruners.
On healthy trees, about a third of the growth can be pruned. Spur branches where the apple tree flowers and sets fruit are the most preferred.
The final cut on each unwanted bough needs to be alongside the “branch collar”, a raised ring of bark where the branch intersects with another branch. Growth cells concentrate in these nodes, causing fast bark regrowth which seals the cuts.
Chhewang carefully selects his cuts, making sure to electively cut branches growing more horizontal to the ground. He also makes cuts where the branches appear overcrowded.
Mature trees usually already have their shape determined, so it’s important to maintain their shape and size. Traditionally, apple trees were always encouraged to stay shorter, so apples were easier to reach.
This is a closeup of a crutch supporting the heavy branch of this apple tree. The natural “V” shaped notch in the trunk is perfect for this purpose.
This apple tree looks great after pruning. I am looking forward to many lustrous green trees heavy with rosy red fruit come autumn.
Our friends from SavATree were also at the farm, pruning trees in the pear grove behind my gym building. Compared to apple trees, pear trees naturally develop more narrow, angled, and upright branches. http://www.savatree.com
This top tool is a pole pruner, or lopper, attachment and a telescoping pole – it’s used to cut branches in high, hard to reach areas that are about an inch to an inch and half thick. The larger of the two is a pole saw. It also attaches to a telescoping pole, and is used to prune branches at least an inch-thick.
I prefer loppers and pole saws – manual tools that will give my trees a more natural appearance and shape.
Here, a pole pruner is used to reach the new growth at the top of the tree.
Any tree trimming work can expose eyes to dust, wood particles, and insects, so it’s vital to wear proper eye protection. These experts also wear non-conductive hard hats, gloves and reflective vests.
Danny Broglino is a 27-year veteran of SavATree. He has a degree in forestry, and is also a certified arborist and pruning expert. He’s been caring for my trees since I took over the property.
Danny cut branches that were rubbing or criss-crossing each other, preventing healthy new growth.
The new growth should be pruned fairly flush to the branch from which it grew.
The idea is to leave slight stubs. By removing any more, the remaining branch has too much of an opening for disease to enter.
Danny explained the two main goals of pruning trees. On young trees, pruning encourages a strong, solid framework. Branches too thick to cut with clippers were cut with a handsaw.
And on mature trees, pruning encourages fruit production.
Danny stopped every so often to assess the shape of the trees as his team worked on them.
Dead branches, or those without any signs of new growth, are also cut, so the energy is directed to the branches with fruiting buds.
After all the branches are cut, they are gathered, neatly piled and then processed through a wood chipper to make mulch.
Danny and his team come each winter to prune before any new growth starts. It’s great to know all my trees are well maintained through the years.
Today at my Bedford, New York farm, temperatures are expected to hit the high 30s with a strong chance of rain in the afternoon.
So far, this winter has been very erratic - days have been cold and blistery, as well as warm and spring-like. We’ve also had some snow. Whenever I am not traveling or needed for an early morning appearance, I always try to tour the farm before work, especially after a storm. I like to visit all the animals, assess the property and take various photographs to share with all of you.
The following images are from a recent snowfall. The weather system was light and short-lived, but it left a beautiful coating of powdery, white snow in the landscape. Fortunately, we've been ready for winter for quite some time - plants were all tucked away in temperature controlled greenhouses, while shrubs, hedges and cold-sensitive garden containers were tightly wrapped in burlap. Enjoy this gallery.
Here is the little basket house nestled in the grove of bald cypress where I store the many beautifully woven baskets I’ve acquired over the years.
This is the front of my main glass greenhouse. I love the sky overhead as the sun tries to peek through the clouds.
Behind the greenhouse is where we grow our berries. These are the red raspberries. The upright posts are made of granite and they have heavy gauge copper wire laced through them to support the berry bushes. Raspberries are unique because their roots and crowns are perennial, while their stems or canes are biennial. A raspberry bush can produce fruit for many years, but pruning is essential.
Tucked away between the Equipment Barn and a grove of weeping willows is my pinetum – an arboretum of pine trees or other conifers used for scientific or ornamental purposes.
I try to add new specimens to this area every year – you can see the many sizes of trees I’ve planted. This area includes pines, spruces and firs, as well as other evergreens.
A stately old sycamore tree – the symbol of my farm, Cantitoe Corners. The sycamore is one of the largest hardwood trees, usually growing 60 to 100 feet tall. They are also one of the oldest trees on the planet.
Here is a look through the woodlands toward one of my lower hayfields.
And one of the winding carriage roads, with well-planted stakes marking the path for our snow equipment and other vehicles.
Here are some of the newest additions to the farm – pigeons. I am happy to report they’re acclimating to their new surroundings quite well and enjoying their time in the coop’s aviary. On colder days, they also have access to a heated room filled with various perches and nesting boxes.
The chickens and geese don’t seem to mind the snow at all – they were all outside their coops clucking away, but don’t worry, their coops are outfitted with warm heat lamps to keep them cozy.
Here is a rafter, or group, of turkeys all grown up, showing their beautiful tail feathers. These turkeys were incubated in my kitchen, right on the counter, and have grown up so well here at the farm.
This tom, or gobbler, is prancing around for the hen on the left.
I love how snow collects atop the chicken coops – during bigger storms, you can see the snow-covered coops from my kitchen window.
The majestic eastern white pines, Pinus strobus, always stand out in bold dark green over the landscape.
As many of you know, I have planted a few different allees at the farm. This is the allee of linden trees. Look closely and you can see a corner of the stable on the left.
Here is the cobblestone courtyard down by the stable and in front of the carriage house where I keep my antique horse drawn carriages.
Walking through the passage between two rows of antique fencing I found in Canada.
Visitors always comment on the fencing. It is 100-year old white spruce fencing with newer cedar uprights to support it. I love how the snow collects on the fence rails.
Here is the view down the Boxwood Allee toward the winding road through the woodland – I have photos of this winding road in every season.
Fortunately, this snowfall was light, but it’s comforting to see all the boxwood shrubs wrapped in their winter burlap shrouds. The burlap protects from windburn and also preserves the shape of the shrub from the weight of the snow.
Many of the wrapped boxwood shrubs look like snow-capped domes. This one sits at the foot of the granite pergola, which supports clematis and wisteria. The pergola also provides a wonderful lookout for perching birds.
Here’s the old corn crib, which is original to the property. It sits at one end of what I call the “party lawn” – a great spot to set up a tent for outdoor entertaining.
Across the carriage road, a group of bald cypress trees, Taxodium distichum. These are fast growing North American natives. Such beautiful trees deserve a prominent place in any landscape.
And here’s my flower cutting garden under a coating of white. This is the fence surrounding the cutting garden, located behind the greenhouse. A pair of stately Kenneth Lynch garden urns at this entrance are covered in burlap for the winter.
During a break in the cold, winter weather, we decided it was a good time to do some work in the flower garden.
My gardener, Wilmer, started the task of pruning and tying the climbing roses, several of which are located on tall tower trellises - these climbers are thriving in this space. My head gardener, Ryan, helped to prune the rose bushes on the perimeter of the garden.
Pruning is about more than just looks; proper pruning improves the health of the plants, prevents disease, and encourages better flowering. There are different pruning strategies for different times of the year, but overall the goals are the same - to control shape, to keep the bushes fresh and open, and to allow for better air circulation through the center of the plants. I've grown roses for more than 25-years. Many of my rose varieties are prized for their petal formations and fragrances, so maintenance is very important to keeping them healthy and productive. Here are some photos of our rose pruning process - enjoy.
On the rose bushes that grow along the fence, Ryan begins by cutting any superfluous branches or shoots for better-shape. These roses look fuller every year – in part because of regular pruning.
Ryan assesses each bush from the bottom, and starts cutting out any of the “three Ds” – dead, damaged or diseased branches.
Dead wood is typically brown in color, so they are very easy to identify.
Ryan also looks for any thin or twiggy canes – in general, those that are less than the diameter of a pencil.
Pruning our roses also keeps the bushes in proportion to the rest of the garden. It is a time consuming task, but a very crucial one for the wellness of these specimens.
Ryan shows where the cut should be made – always just above a bud eye. The “bud eye” refers to the area on the stem where branching occurs.
When cutting, look for white inside the stem. If it’s brown, cut further down.
Healthy wood is always greenish white.
We use Okatsune Hand Pruners, with their distinguishable red and white handles. These eight-inch long shears are made from Izumo Yasuki Japanese steel, and are angled to provide a smooth, clean cut without crushing. Ours come from A.M. Leonard.
Ryan also looks for any stems that cross or rub together.
Removing these from the bottom ensures better growth – when parts of a plant are pruned off it uses its energy to produce new stems and leaves.
What a difference – well-shaped, and ready for a winter’s nap.
I also have six of these tower trellises in my flower garden. These rose climbers love these supports and grow beautiful blooms here every season.
These plant canes were growing in all different directions and needed to be pruned and tied.
When selecting a trellis, be sure it’s strong enough to hold the weight of a full grown rose plant in both wet and windy weather.
Also be sure it is easy to access all parts of the trellis for pruning.
When working with roses, be sure to use a good pair of gloves – the thorns can be very sharp. Here, Wilmer actually has another pair of gloves underneath.
To clamber upwards and reach sunlight, roses that climb take advantage of their thorns’ natural propensity to hook onto anything around them. It is important to train major canes in the direction you want on the armature.
Wilmer assesses which ones need pruning.
And then arranges the canes, so they aren’t crowded.
Main canes on a climbing rose are the ones that grow from the base of the plant. These canes form the structure.
Laterals are the “side-shoots” that come off the main canes – they bear the flowers.
On established plants, the basics are always the same – prune dead, damaged, and overcrowded canes.
Prune the flowering side shoots to two to three buds above the structural canes during the dormant season.
Prune canes back by one-third to one-half to promote branching and to keep your rambler tidy.
We use a natural jute twine for most of our garden tying projects.
When tying, the twine does not have to be tight – just enough to anchor the branch and provide proper guidance as it grows.
Knots should be very simple.
The loop around the plant cane should be just tight enough to keep the vine secure, but not break it.
Any hanging twine would be clipped close to the knot to keep it tidy.
To ensure canes don’t get tied too close together, twist the twine a couple of times before knotting around a vine.
Snip off branches that are growing too thickly. Every three years, also cut out some of the older canes and allow new, younger canes to replace them.
Always remove the weak canes so that the plant can focus strength into a few strong main canes.
Don’t worry if you need multiple ties to secure the canes.
Climbing roses tend to overtake the space they grow in, so they should be positioned away from trees, shrubs, and other plants. I can’t wait to see the long, arching canes that will grow many flowers on these trellises.