Looking after some plants can be very time consuming and in order for them to give us a fantastic show year after year it is best to know how to prune them properly.
A common rule to pruning is to cut plants back once they've flowered and often to prevent the plant from throwing down its seeds if it's to be kept contained in one particular area. For many gardeners however, there tends to be mixed reviews! The flowers that have faded and turned to bursting seed heads are perfect for birds and other wildlife so many like to leave the old stems on through winter to protect new growth underneath, to add some height to the winter borders and of course to keep the birds fed through the colder months.
Whichever way the plants are to be pruned it will happen sooner or later and should be done with a clean pair of secateurs and disinfected if possible before use. This will kill off any lingering diseases from last years cuttings.
The aim is to cut all woody and dead stems back to the base to allow air and light to flow through the plant to give the new growth a chance at becoming strong and healthy.
Take a stem and follow it down to two nodes and cut at a forty five degree angle to allow water to run off, reducing any chance of a bacteria build up on scarred tissue. Make sure that you keep an eye on the overall shape of the plant so that it'll all grow in a well balance manner.
To do this you'll need to find an outward facing bud mainly and cut above this to concentrate all of the energy back to the roots, giving it less distance to work and pumping it back into where it really needs it, in the new and tender shoots.
Tree pruning is slightly different as most of it takes place in and around the canopy, avoiding the trunk, and in the case of fruit trees, waiting until they are dormant to attempt it.
As their structure is more susceptible to wind it is common practice to prune them to an almost symmetrical habit. When pruning trees remember that overcrowding of branches will cause them to rub, leaving an ideal breeding ground for disease to enter the wound created. To avoid this happening thin out the canopy leaving more of the newer branches.
You may have fewer apples this year but they'll probably be twice the size and will keep coming back with avengeance year after year!