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A Little Bit Every Day: Pruning

I keep a list of projects and tasks that I need to complete in my garden and home. Obviously, this changes with the season. Sometimes, though, a little peer pressure will change priorities, too!

I have two trees in my yard, a redbud and a crape myrtle. My neighbor has encouraged me to prune these trees because they block her view of the neighborhood lake. She likes to watch the Canadian geese and other water fowl that visit our pond.The trees are multi-stemmed and have a lot of brush mixed in — water oak, privet, clematis, and a little poison ivy to mix it up!


Cercis canadensis (Redbud), BEFORE Corrective Pruning


Lagerstroemia indica (Crape Myrtle), BEFORE Corrective Pruning



Poor pruning cuts have resulted in poor regrowth, poor branching, and insect issues.

In truth, these trees should be removed because they are quite disfigured. They have been poorly pruned so many times previously that some drastic choices will have to be made to restore the trees. Why do I save them, you ask? First and foremost, they are not mine; I am only the caretaker. And probably, subconsciously, this is why I have taken so long to give them any love and attention. Second, it is challenging to remove trees. Without equipment to pull the stumps, I could, at best, cut down the trees. Then, I would be left with the maintenance task of regularly pruning out the suckers that emerge from the roots until the trees’ reserves are spent.IMG_3496

So, for my “Little Bit Every Day” this weekend, I turned my attention to the redbud and crape myrtle (I wanted to please my neighbor, and I could no longer ignore these poor trees). I gathered an assortment of tools, including loppers, a hand saw, pruning shears, some string, and leather work gloves. This process actually took me two afternoons to complete. I found that as I worked, I had to make major decisions about what branches to remove. I do best when I work on something, walk away for a while, and then revisit it again.


Redbud AFTER first round of pruning

On the first pass at this project, I removed brush, sucker growth, damaged limbs, and branches that crossed each other. These were branches that needed to be removed no matter what, so there was little decision-making involved. This is a huge cosmetic improvement, too, so there’s a little “instant gratification” involved. But eventually, I had to decide what would stay and what would go. I was attempting to return the tree to a vase-shape, closer to its natural form.






So, I examined the shape, structure, and branching of each trunk before finally deciding which ones I would cut out.  To keep track of which limbs and trunks I wanted to remove, I opted to tie string around them. This was really helpful for my husband, who was helping me with the heavier cuts. This clearly showed which parts I wanted to remove.




IMG_3500After wrestling with the saw, I finally ended up with this result. It is an improvement, and I will still have suckers to remove, but my neighbor should have a better view of the geese!

Do you have a pruning project on your “to do” list? If so, and you need some guidance, be sure to check the UGA Extension publication, Pruning Ornamental Plants in the Landscape.

Now, on my “Little Bit” list is to bring over some pine straw and properly mulch these trees…


Lagerstroemia indica (Crape Myrtle)
AFTER corrective pruning


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About sdorn

Sheri is the State Coordinator for the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program and Extension Specialist for Consumer Ornamentals. When she is not traveling about the state of Georgia admiring the work of Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, she spends time in her own (real and virtual) gardens.