Winter Prune before the Forsythias Bloom
There will be a glorious false spring sometime after Christmas and before Valentine’s Day, each year if you are lucky. When it comes, get out there and prune away! Dormant winter pruning should be done after woody plants have gone completely dormant and before new buds begin to swell.
When major pruning of broadleaf evergreen shrubs is required, sometimes it is easier to shear first (as in the photo above) and then selectively remove the remaining limbs as needed, using the deep cut hand-pruning method. For commercial properties, severe shearing of no more than one-third of the branch tips in winter can be a good way to keep low parking lot hedges low, allowing visual scanning of the property for safety.
Prune Junipers to keep them dense by lifting each long limb individually and cutting back to some remaining green growth. Any more, and you will end up with nothing but a bare stump.
Of course, you need to wait to prune most flowering shrubs until after they bloom, unless you are trying to rejuvenate the entire shrub and can do without blooms for the year. It is tempting to prune everything while shears are in hand, but resist the temptation. Plants with pithy centers or hollow stems will suffer as late winter rains might rot the stumps.
It is probably not a good idea to prune if you expect a severe cold snap right away. It takes some plants, especially small fruit trees, a while to re-acclimate to cold after major pruning. The exposure of moist, fresh stumps that haven’t hardened off for a few days could do harm to the plants.
Plan on a nice warm spell sometime in late January or early February, and keep your clippers sharpened and ready!