Today was a perfect day to prune my crab apple trees. I have to admit that this was a task that needed to be done, but that I wasn’t looking forward to. I believe I’ve fairly well mastered the art of pruning shrubs. After all, it’s pretty hard to ruin a shrub. Most will survive even a hard pruning. But trees – well they scare me. Perhaps that’s why I have largely ignored my young crab apple trees since their planting in 2007. But this year, no more cowering among the spireas, I was determined to correct my errors of omission.
I started out with a bit of knowledge — my first steps were to remove any branches that were growing straight up (and there were a few) or in towards the middle. There was little winter damage (this past year being rather mild) so I didn’t have that to contend with. After that though I was stuck … now what?
So what to do? Turn to the experts — those with more experience than me — my father and father-in-law. A phone call to my Dad (who had a small apple orchard when I was younger) lead to this advice: you want to keep branches with as close to a 90 degree angle to the tree as possible, anything with 45 or less should go. Can I cut back any branches that are way longer than the remainder of the tree? Yes was the answer. In fact, if one area is a bit sparse you should actually prune that area quite severely. This will generate more new growth, balancing out the tree.
OK, so back out I went and removed a few more branches. Then lucky me, my father-in-law was up for a visit for the day. So what did I do, I put him to work helping me. Oh, and I should admit that this was after my father-in-law (who is 75), my husband and oldest son finished a 11km bike ride. But did I feel bad — no I was desperate. His advise: remove most of the inner small branches to make for a more open center. Apparently he used to climb a ladder to do this on a more mature crab apple in his yard. Then we cut out quite a few more branches and lastly went to work shaping the tree by cutting back a few longish stems. I must admit I was really getting into it by then.
The end result is below and I have to say they look much better. And I think I’ve discovered a new business opportunity for my parents generation — landscaping and gardening advice by the real experts, those with both knowledge and experience. So thanks to both Dads, my trees never looked better.