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How To Prune Bramble Fruits

Bramble Fruits: Blackberries, raspberries, dewberries and all their relatives bear the best fruit on year-old shoots. Determine if your plants are spring-bearing or overbearing. If spring-bearing, remove the spent canes as the crop finishes in early summer. At this same time a good crop of new canes should be growing from below. Use a cane hook or a heavy knife to remove all but three to five of the strongest, best-placed ones by making a clean cut at the stump. It is a good idea to spray these cuts, if possible, with tree-wound dressing.

If the new growth is overly vigorous, top it at a convenient picking height. If not, tie to prevent wind whipping over winter. Early next spring as buds begin to swell, cut back to picking height; strong side shoots will break, and these will bear fruit. If your plants are overbearing, you should leave the fruit-bearing canes until the end of summer to encourage that choice early-fall crop of berries. This makes tending the brambles over summer somewhat difficult, because you have to work around the old canes while developing the new ones.

Blueberries: Prune these so there is about the same amount of well-spaced one, two, and three-year-old wood, nothing older. This year's growth bears no fruit. Second-year branches bear the main crop, third-year branches also bear very well, but are becoming too woody. Older wood will fruit, but when old wood is present, not much vigorous new growth breaks and the plants tend to deteriorate.

Grapes: Consult your County Extension Agent for specialized instructions that match local conditions. Generally speaking, the standard grapevines are trellis-grown with a main trunk and two or four permanent lateral arms that produce carefully spaced and limited year-old fruiting branches. The Southern-type grapes, muscadines and scuppernongs, grow rangier. They have a lot more vine and longer year-old fruiting canes. Vinifera (European wine grapes) vines are pruned to a stump, from which come several fruiting canes in the spring - possible as these fruit on the current year's wood.

All grapes are pruned in late winter when the plants are at maximum dormancy. Avoid summer pruning as much as possible. A spring-pruned grape may bleed to death. Roses: In spring, cut hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas and polyanthas back to healthy, undiscolored wood with sound pith. This may mean cutting almost to the graft union (be careful not to cut below it) but keep as much healthy wood as possible.

Retain three to five sturdy well-spaced canes and remove spindly, crowded or injured ones. If side branches are present, save only those growing toward the outside of the plant, and shorten these to two or three strong buds. Until midsummer, pick your roses with short stems, and when you cut a spent flower or take blooms for the house, cut to the uppermost leaf with five leaflets that points toward the outside of the bush. This retains the maximum number of blossom-producing buds and keeps the plant open in the center. In the fall, before putting the roses to bed for the winter, pull the canes loosely together and tie them with a piece of soft cord; if you live in a very windy area, reduce the canes to about 30 inches after the leaves are dried by repeated frosts.

Fall pruning is touchy, as it may stimulate growth during winter. Treat shrub roses as you would any flowering bush. Each winter consider the removal of one or two of the oldest, woodiest canes in the center of the clump and with a sharp spade remove crowded or weak new shoots. During summer reach in with the clippers to nip back new basal shoots to two or three leaves. Garden Climbers: Honeysuckle, wisteria, trumpet vine and the like all need attention from time to time.

Do not wait until the plant is a hopeless tangle. While it is young, train into a neat, well-spaced pattern. Then, every year or two, during the plant's dormant period, prune out twiggy growth, overcrowded shoots and dead wood. During the growing season immediately clip off any tendril that pulls away from the support or hangs downward.

Clematis are a special case. Some bloom best on new wood, some on older wood and some on both. In late winter it is advisable to prune out some of the tangle to achieve a neat appearing plant. After new growth is well along in early spring, prune out any dead or weak wood. As flowers fade during summer, nip off overly vigorous or badly placed tendrils. You may not have the largest flowers possible using this method but you have a large, vigorously blooming specimen.

Derek Pliers is a writer for www.antique-collectible.net.

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