Starting With the Basics
Again and again in this book on how to prune plants, the author references "buds." For example, he will make statements such as "Most plants respond well to accurate pruning above a bud or pair of buds." It is with good reason, then, that in his opening remarks he introduces these magical plant parts.
For instance, Hodge describes five different kinds of buds. One type is the "terminal" bud. Why is it important to acquire knowledge about such things? Well, as Hodge explains, while a terminal bud is still in place, "it inhibits the growth of buds below it." When you prune it off, "buds lower down start to shoot" -- an excellent reason, in many cases, to prune plants.
But before you can prune plants, you need the proper tools. One of the early parts of the book introduces these tools, providing images to show you what they look like. Some but not all of the tools on the list are:
Reasons to Prune Plants
In his introductory remarks, Hodge emphasizes that, before you go out and prune plants, you should have a specific and legitimate reason to do so. Hodge lists what some of the legitimate reasons for pruning are.
One reason will most assuredly catch the reader's attention: namely, that some plants will "develop bigger, better flowers if pruned regularly" (and he gives as an example butterfly bush).
Useful terms to know when you train and/or prune plants are defined in a special section early on in the book. Examples include:
With the basics out of the way, we arrive at the meat of the book. The middle chapters are organized according to particular types of plants, beginning with perennials, many of which profit from being deadheaded. But other techniques are also mentioned; for example, "pinching" plants such as mums and Joe-Pye weed.
How to Prune Shrubs, Trees and Vines
For most homeowners, this is where we get down to the nitty-gritty, as, in the average landscape, it is with these classes of plants we'll find the most trepidation over pruning.
In the shrub section, in addition to explaining how to prune, for example, flowering shrubs -- and how pruning them differs from pruning evergreen shrubs -- special sections with graphics highlight how to prune particular kinds of shrubs, such as:
Ever wonder about how to prune shrubs into those shapes you sometimes see on estates? Well, for good measure, the art of topiary is also covered in this chapter. Trimming hedges is another specialized -- albeit far less fancy -- aspect of pruning shrubs, and there's a separate chapter devoted to that task.
But I find it peculiar that a book on the topic of how to prune plants lacks organized lists that indicate when to prune particular flowering shrubs (often presented as "blooms on old-wood" vs. "blooms on new-wood" lists). True, you can look up information in the appendix on specific shrubs, but that's not very convenient for the reader.
Just as both commonplace and specialized tasks are presented regarding how to prune shrubs, so there is information on how to prune trees that will satisfy the average homeowner, as well as material a bit more "in the weeds" such as introductions to pollarding and espalier.
The section on pruning and training vines will be appreciated by those who, for example, have frequently lost sleep over the question, "Why isn't my wisteria blooming?" How you prune it has a lot to do with what kind of success you'll have with wisteria.
How to Prune Rose Bushes and Fruit Trees
I found the chapters on these subjects somewhat unsatisfying and wish the author had skipped them, altogether. To be fair, whole books could be devoted to how to prune rose bushes and even just apple trees (let alone all types of fruit trees). If you're considering buying a book to learn more about these subjects, therefore, I would not recommend this one. Instead, go with something geared exclusively to those topics.
But if you are clueless about pruning and simply want an introduction to the subject, Geoff Hodge's Pruning & Training is a good place to start.