Garden Books

The Pruner’s Bible

The bones of the garden are bared in autumn.  Leaves disappear from deciduous plants.  Perennials and annuals wither from frosts. Vines, now hanging lifelessly, need to be correctly cropped.  Large bushes block light from neighboring plants.  Changes for better spring gardens began to fill our heads.  Before adding more plants, basic vegetation needs to be pruned.

For practical advice on trimming plants common to the Triangle, The Pruner’s Bible offer instructions to “produce more flowers, more fruit or more colorful stems and leaves” for next year.

This book’s subtitle, “a step-by-step guide to pruning every plant in your garden,” establishes it as a guide for both beginning and experienced gardeners.

The book’s first sections discuss why to prune, necessary tools and basic techniques.  As an example of pruning’s advantages, the author describes an untrimmed butterfly bush’s blossoms as plentiful, but only four inches long; a pruned bush’s blossoms will be fewer but each one twelve inches long.  Advice on paring plants, depending on their bud location and type, is given here.

Pruning seventy types of common plants from abelias to wisterias is explained in the Directory of Plants section.  A color photograph is accompanied by a drawing of which branches to prune on each plant.  Information on the plant’s growing requirements, tools needed and when to trim is detailed.

The final section covers special techniques for “hedging, renovation pruning and low-maintenance pruning.”  Trimming trees, conifers, hedges, climbers and even ground covers is discussed here.   The book concludes with charts on clipping seasons for various species.  As a bit of help for the discouraged gardener, the author offers a final list of plants requiring little or no pruning.

Selecting seventy plants popular in America indicates the author’s vast experience in gardening.  A resident of England, Steve Bradley is a certified Master of Horticulture from the Royal Horticultural Society.  He has studied in both Canada and in the United States.  He has written several books and many articles published in popular gardening magazines, and regularly tests his skills by answering gardening questions on live BBC radio programs.

The portion of the book about pruning specific plants was the most helpful to beginner-gardener me.  Almost all of the included plants I have seen growing in the Triangle. I discovered that the blooming time of clematis, early, middle or late spring, affects their pruning needs. I saw how to clip a crepe myrtle without cutting off the entire top.   Why my hydrangeas drastically limited their blossoms after a bad whacking became clear.  After reading about buddleias, camellias, euonymus, pyracanthas, redbuds, viburnums, roses, and hollies, I realized that other bushes in my new home’s garden needed serious shearing.  Then I decided to invest in some of the plants recommended for low maintenance.

The Pruner’s Bible is an excellent volume to add to a novice or an experienced gardener’s home library.  This book will guide how to treat new and established plants and to determine what is required for good care before future purchases.  As the author explains, “time spent on training and pruning young plants should be regarded as an investment in their future and as a time-saving, long-tem benefit for the gardener.”

Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants.  She is a volunteer at the Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.

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