Finally got around to pruning shrubs and trees this weekend. Hauled out my loppers and such (the orange-handled ones are what I use for most big spring pruning jobs), got the ladder, and set to work. In about three hours, pruned one redbud, one plum, one dwarf lilac, one Limelight hydrangea, and one tree-size burning bush. I can’t quite reach the tops of the redbud and the burning bush; clearly I need a taller ladder.
I’m no expert, but here’s my basic process:
1) cut off any dead matter
2) look for branches criss-crossing and rubbing up against each other; choose one to live and cut off the other
3) look up pruning requirements for the plant if I don’t know them (different varieties of hydrangea need different things), and then do what the internet tells me — sometimes it’s prune down to knee height (which I should’ve done earlier in the year), sometimes it’s take out 1/3 of stems (renewal pruning), sometimes it’s take out all old wood, sometimes it’s be sure to leave the old wood if you want flowers, etc
4) prune for shape — mostly I’m following the natural shape of the plant and just taking out any random errant branches / stems; I also try to keep my fruit trees short enough that I can actually harvest fruit, should the damned squirrels actually leave me any (see also ‘espalier’ and ‘coppice’).
5) if I’ve pruned anything with flower buds, bring those inside to hopefully force into bloom in vases in the next few days (remember to hammer woody stems or cut x’s in them, so the water can get in more easily)
6) send husband and children out to haul massive pile of branches (about twice as high as pictured, in the end) to the backyard fire pit area
7) retire to bed with a hard cider and an episode of Gardener’s World; plan on a bath later, because that’s a lot of unaccustomed muscle work (including lots of going up and down the ladder, repositioning it), and I’m going to be sore the next day.