June 2014: Pruning

June 2014 library profile:



"All gardens, even the most native and naturalistic, benefit from the hand of an artful pruner... remember that our gardens are also co-creations, shared with mother earth. And like any good mother, she expects you to tidy up your room."

~Tom Spencer


Espalier Ginkgo and Dawn Redwood in the May T. Watts Reading Garden
Pruned espalier Ginkgo and Dawn Redwood trees in the May T. Watts Reading Garden
Jim Judd, Morton Arboretum Photographic Society


Whether you prune for health, size, beauty, or bounty, the Sterling Morton Library has resources that can aid you in your quest for a healthy and beautiful garden. Right around now, just after the spring flower, is one of the best times to prune. Revised in the last few years, Lee Reich's The Pruning Book provides reader's with a resources split into three parts. Part one gives general information on pruning tools, rationale, and plant response. Part 2 is all information on when and how to prune plants like deciduous ornamental bushes and trees, evergreens, ornamental vines, edible fruits and nuts, houseplants, and herbaceous plants. Part 3 is dedicated to specialized techniques and provides readers with guides on topiary, pollarding, pleaching, mowing, bonsai, and espalier (see photo at right for an example of espalier). Reich also provides a glossary of pruning terms and an index for easy reference.



"For now, let's consider the reasons for pruning: to keep a plant healthy; to keep a plant from growing too large, to make a plant more beautiful; and to improve the quality of quantity of flowers, leaves, or fruits... Upon coming to the end of this list of reasons to prune, I suddenly realized that there is one more reason, for better or worse, why we prune plants - because we are human. Plants offer us more than mere aesthetic or utilitarian pleasure; they also are outlets for our creativity. We enjoy watching plants respond to our care, reacting to our pinching, snipping, watering, and fertilizing. By this, I do not mean merely watching a plant shrink as we lop off its branches, but, rather, how the plant regrows in response to just how and when it was cut back... Pruning is just one of many gardening practices, yet it is among the most effective and interesting in terms of what it can accomplish. Depending on how and when you prune, the influence may be evident in a few weeks, in a year, or over the course of years. This book, I hope, will hlep you to get a response to pruning your plants that both pleases you and keeps your plants happy."

~from The Pruning Book by Lee Reich, p. 6-11


Library resources

A sample of our library pruning resources.

The Pruning Book by Lee Reich 2010

An Illustrated Guide to Pruning 3rd edition by Edward Gilman 2012

Pruning Made Easy by Lewis Hill 1998

Pruning Basics by David Squire 2001

Pruning Trees, Shrubs & Vines by Karan Davis Cutler 2003


Plant Clinic resources

The Morton Arboretum's Plant Clinic provides advice to all through in person, by phone, by email, or on their website! Check out these resources provided by the Plant Clinic on pruning:

Pruning deciduous shrubs

Pruning trees

Pruning evergreens


Reader's advisory

If you are beginning the pruning process in your garden or just interested in pruning as a subject, also take a look at our collections on garden maintenance and garden design!


Click here to see previous Monthly Library Profiles!