The following observations are made for the general not the specific regarding pruning conifers.
It is far better for the growth and health of conebearing plants if pruning is accomplished in our Northland community before the first of June of each year.
Some conifers are fussier than others about pruning.
GENERALLY, then, you might find it easier to remember the pruning requirements of both groups by calling the candle producers the ‘fussy’ and those which do not produce candles, the not fussy.
The candle producers are fussy because they prefer to have only their candles to be pruned, and don’t approve of being pruned after the first of June in our horticultural zone of 4 something when their candles are no longer soft to your touch.
Pine, Fir, Douglas fir, Spruce belong to this group.
Those conifers which do not produce candles but ‘buds’ instead can be given hair cuts at any time…….Major pruning, however, is to be done before mid June, usually the earlier the better.
This group includes junipers, yews, arborvitae, larch, Chamaecyparis, Microbiota and hemlock.
The most important question one must ask onself as pruner…..
Why are you pruning?
Answers could include to: Maintain a certain size or certain shape of the plant, Maintain good plant health by removing a dead or sickly branch or a branch rubbing another causing a wound, Develop character or artistic purpose for the tree or shrub, or Prune to produce harmony or other intended purpose with its plant neighbors.
Do not forget that a landscape garden is a piece of land to enter. It is primarily a visual art form, in the ideal to be made beautiful for all the human senses, not least among them memory and thought.
In the ideal nearly every home with home grounds should exude beauty in the landscape garden manner……but nearly none do.
Some things in the human experience are far more beautiful than others. In our cultural climate, however, we are pretending that beauty doesn’t exist. It is only a matter of opinion…..the nonsense that beauty is “only in the eye of the beholder”, which is a great untruth.
I taught a class called “Landscaping the Minnesota Home Grounds” through the University of Minnesota Extension Service for years. I often would “test” students, all adults by age and in those days quality and behavior to prove the point.
Twenty items, forty slides. “Which is more beautiful, picture slide A or picture slide B, and why?”, I would ask, and then show them competing pictures, 20 in all. Of course, I’d throw in a few that would be too close to call and therefore offer discussion……why is this more beautiful than that?
It was fun to do……Folks were quite honest in those days. They seemed to be more interested in discovering rather than browbeating other with narrow. self-interested thoughts.
Beauty in the garden is difficult to describe and often sufficient no matter how nonexistent the design.. Flowers and shrubs may be beautifully maintained as individual specimens requiring skill and knowledge, but they may not be beautiful in their arrangements either one to another and ultimately to you the artist or the visitor.
When taking your first steps to develop your landscape garden learnings, “What to place Where and Why did you do that?” are the three questions to drive your decisions. The Art of Pruning can wait, but learn the reasons for pruning as soon as you can….and practice often so you can begin to develop confidence.