Spring Pruning – Nipping BudsMarch 11, 2016
Nipping or rolling buds is a great spring pruning trick!
As winter thaws into spring, so too do tight, dormant plant buds begin to melt away, allowing tender young growth to emerge. When plants are in this fragile state, it can be tough to prune them without damaging them as well. For instance, if you want to remove some interior branches of a tree, but you can’t reach those branches without rubbing against the tender buds of desirable outer growth, you’ll find yourself wishing you’d finished your cuts before the delicate growth began at winter’s end. And, at this point, it might make sense to hold off on cutting that interior branch until new growth toughens up later in the season.
But, this is the time to roll out buds to make your pruning chores easier, your plants look better and make it easier for your plants to recover from losing what you nip away.
Nipping or rolling buds is a pretty simple concept. Essentially, you use your fingers to easily pinch, nip or roll out sprouts that emerge in spots where you know you don’t want a branch to form. This pruning technique only works on young, tender growth. Once the growth begins to toughen up later in spring, you’ll need your sharp pruning tools to remove these branches without ripping, tearing and damaging your plant.
Understanding which buds to remove this way is, like all pruning, a bit science and a bit art as the following images illustrate. Trees like this crab apple, flowering plums, Heptacodium, Physocarpus and many others are notorious for busting loose in all kinds of undesirable ways in spring. Fortunately, this simple pruning method will make your gardening chores much easier!
Always remember: if in doubt: don’t cut it out! Once you remove a bud or a branch, you can’t put it back on your tree. So, if you’re stumped, contact us for help before you start nipping and cutting.