Though the chapter on pruning is placed at the commencement of that division of the work which treats upon fruits, the fact must not be lost sight of that pruning is often quite as necessary upon trees and shrubs cultivated for their flowers or foliage as upon those grown for their fruit. In pruning we cut away some portion of a tree, shrub, or other plant, for the benefit of that which remains, and whether performed upon a branch six inches through, or upon a shoot so tender as to be cut by the thumb-nail, is essentially the same. The operation, though very simple, is one which the amateur often fears to undertake, and having no confidence in his own ability, he often employs some jobbing gardener, who has no fears on this or any other gardening matter. Pruning is done for various ends, and unless one has a definite reason for doing it, he had better leave it undone: Many have an idea that pruning must, for some reason, be done every year, just as it used to be thought necessary for people to be bled every spring, whether well or ill. We prune to control the shape of a tree or shrub, and by directing the growth from one part to another, obtain a symmetrical form, especially in fruit trees, where it is desirable that the weight of fruit be equally distributed. In some trees where the fruit is grown only on the wood of the previous season, the bearing portions are each year removed further and further from the body of the tree; in such cases a shortening of the growth each year will cause the formation of a compact head instead of the loose straggling that results when this is omitted. We prune to renew the vigor of a plant; the inexperienced cannot understand how cutting away a third, a half, or even more of a plant can improve it in vigor and fruitfulness, or abundance and size of flowers. Let us suppose that a stem which grew last year has 20 buds upon it; if this is allowed to take its own course in the spring, a few of the upper buds will push with great vigor, and form strong shoots; those below will make gradually weaker shoots, and for probably the lower third of the stem the buds will not start at all; the most vigorous growth is always at the top, the buds there were the last formed in the previous summer, are the most excitable, and the soonest to grow the next spring, and getting the start of those below them, they draw the nourishment to themselves and starve the others. If, instead of allowing this stem to grow at will in this manner, it had been, before any of the buds started, cut back to leave only a few of the lower ones, those having an abundance of nutriment would push forth with great vigor and be nearly equal in size, while the flowers or fruit borne upon them would be greatly superior to those upon the unpruned stem. Any one can readily be convinced of the utility of pruning by taking two rose-bushes of equal size, leaving one without any pruning to take care of itself, and each spring cutting the other back severely, pruning away one-third or one-half of the wood that was formed the previous season. The result at the end of two years will be very striking. No general rule can be given for pruning; the amateur should use his eyes, and notice the habit of growth of his trees and shrubs. He will find that many, like the rose, produce their flowers upon the new wood of the present season, and that such plants are greatly benefitted by cutting back more or less each spring. But there are other plants for which this treatment will not answer; if we examine a horse-chestnut-tree, or a lilac-bush, and many others, we shall find that the flowers come from the large buds that were formed on the end of last season's growth, and that to cut back such plants would be to remove all the flower-buds. With shrubs of this kind, all that need be done is to thin out the branches where they are too crowded. These examples will warn the novice against indiscriminate pruning, and unless as he stands before his shrub or tree, knife in hand, he knows why he is to prune and how, let him put his knife in his pocket, and give the plant the benefit of the doubt. While under the different fruits we can give directions for the particular pruning required by each, the proper method of treating a miscellaneous collection of ornamental shrubs and trees can only be learned by observation. The term pruning is generally applied to the cutting away, in whole or in part, of the ripened wood, but much pruning may be done by the use of the thumb and finger; this is termed pinching, and is practiced upon young shoots while they are yet soft. This most useful form of pruning allows us to control the form of a plant with the greatest ease, and is applied not only to soft-wooded plants, but to trees and shrubs, and may be so performed on these as to render nearly, if not quite, all pruning of ripened wood unnecessary. If a vigorous shoot has its end or "growing point" pinched out it will cease to elongate, but will throw out branches below, the growth of which may be controlled in the same manner; the blackberry illustrates the utility of this kind of pruning; the rampant growing shoot which springs up from the root will, if left to itself, make a long cane six or eight feet high, and with a very few branches near the top; if when this shoot has reached four, or at most five feet, its end be pinched off, it will then throw out numerous branches, and if the upper branches, when they reach the length of 18 inches, be "stopped," (as it is called), in a similar manner, by pinching, the growth will be directed to the lower ones, and by the end of the season instead of a long, unmanageable wand, there will be a wellbranched bush which will bear its fruit all within reach. The grower of plants in pots is usually afraid to remove even a single inch of the stem, and the result is usually a lot of "leggy" specimens not worth the care that is otherwise bestowed upon them. Plants may be prevented from ever reaching this condition, if their growth be properly controlled by pinching; but if they have once reached it, they should be cut back severely, and a compact bushy form obtained from the new shoots which will soon start. The mechanical part of pruning is very simple, a sharp knife is the best implement, as it makes a clean cut, without bruising the bark, and the wound quickly heals; but shears are much easier to handle, and the work can be done so much more quickly, that they are generally preferred, and for rampant growing bushes will answer, but upon fruit-trees, and choice plants generally, the knife is to be preferred. The cut should be made just at a joint; not so far above it as to leave a stub, as in Fig. 49, which will die back to the bud, there being nothing to contribute to its growth; nor should it be made so close to the bud as to endanger it, as in fig. 48; the cut should start just opposite the lower part of the bud and end just above its top, as in fig. 50. For the removal of branches too large to cut with the knife, as must sometimes be done on neglected'trees, a saw is required. Saws are made especially for the purpose, but any narrow one with the teeth Bet wide will answer; the rough cut left by the saw should be pared smooth, and if an inch or more in diameter, the wound should be covered; ordinary paint, melted grafting wax, or shellac varnish will answer to protect the bare wood from air and moisture, and prevent decay.
In pruning it is well to remember that the future shape of the tree will be materially affected by the position upon the branch of the bud to which the cut is made; the upper bud left on the branch will continue the growth, and the new shoot will be in the direction of that bud. If a young tree is, as in Fig. 51, to have all its branches shortened, and each is cut to a bud, a, pointing towards the center of the tree, the tendency of the new growth will all be inward, as in fig. 52; while if all be cut to an outside bud, B, the result will be to spread the growth, as in fig. 53. As to the time of pruning, about which there has been much discussion, it may be done on small stems at any time after the fall of the leaf, before the growth starts in the spring, but for the removal of large branches, late in winter is regarded as the best time. Pinching is of course done whenever it is needed.
Fig. 53. Pruning For Shape.