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Robert F. Polomski School of Agricultural, Forestry, and Environmental Science, Clemson University

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An Illustrated Guide to Pruning. 3rd ed. Edward F. Gilman. 2012. Delmar, Cengage Learning, Clifton Park, NY. 476 pages incl. appendices, glossary, index, full-color photographs, and illustrations. $129.95, Softcover. ISBN-13: 978-1-111-30730-1.

“Pruning is both an art and a science” is an adage that appears in a multitude of print and electronic publications. However, proper pruning—artistic expression coupled with research-based techniques—needs to be practiced more widely in nurseries, landscapes, and streetscapes. In fact, a prevailing idea (especially among the nescient) is that if you can afford a pair of loppers or a chainsaw, you know how to prune shrubs and trees properly. Sadly, we know that concept is not true.

Pruning is a skill that requires knowledge and practice. Happily, Gilman hit a grand slam with his 3rd edition of An Illustrated Guide to Pruning. Comprised of 18 chapters, nine appendices, a glossary, and 115 references, An Illustrated Guide to Pruning is, in my opinion, the pruning bible for nurserymen, horticulturists, and arborists.

The first four chapters provide introductory information: pruning objectives and strategies; ways to minimize pruning needs with appropriate plant selection, placement, and management; and understanding the impacts of pruning on shrub and tree biology and health.

Chapters 5 through 7 define and explain the implications of three pruning cuts—reduction, heading, and removal cuts, various types of pruning tools that range from shears to chainsaws, and timing—knowing when to prune fruit and ornamental trees from the nursery to the landscape.

Nurserymen will be interested in chapters 8 and 9, which address nursery tree production strategies to develop quality trees with dominant leaders, well-spaced lateral branches, well-tapered trunks, and a uniform crown.

To satisfy the artful aspects of pruning, Gilman devotes Chapter 10 to developing an espalier, pollarding, and other forms of “architectural pruning.”

Chapters 11 and 12 address the crux of An Illustrated Guide to Pruning—structural pruning. For years Dr. Gilman has written and spoken about the importance of structural or formative pruning to eliminate defects (such as codominant stems, low-growing branches), to increase the life span of a tree, and to reduce potential of a tree to harm people and property. For individuals who interact with trees from the nursery to the landscape, these two chapters address the concepts and practices involved in developing a tree with a strong architectural framework comprised of a dominant leader and well-spaced, supportive scaffold limbs.

In the remaining chapters of the book, Gilman discusses approaches for pruning established, mature, and storm-damaged trees, provides detailed instructions for pruning specific trees that include crape myrtles, conifers, palms, and cycads, and offers techniques for pruning shrubs. Chapter 16, “Root Pruning and Management,” canvasses the scientific literature and introduces the reader to our current understanding of root growth and the effects of root pruning on regrowth in the nursery, at planting, and in the landscape environment. Typical of all of the chapters, Gilman deftly weaves the scientific literature into practitioner-friendly prose that enlightens and empowers the reader to employ the right techniques.

A feature that raises the bar for currently available or impending pruning publications is Gilman’s use of more than 500 full-color photographs and illustrations that allow readers to visualize pruning techniques, terms, and concepts. In some of his illustrations Gilman simplifies his “how to” instructions by using red-colored branches to denote limbs that need to be removed. This clever use of color to teach readers how to make proper cuts reminds me of Ernie Christ’s 1975 Rutgers Cooperative Extension Bulletin (377-A): “How to prune young and bearing apple trees.” This simple use of color engages our visual senses and enhances the process of learning how to prune properly.

The following nine appendices round-out this instructional manual: Nonconiferous trees requiring only moderate pruning to develop reasonably good structure; Trees often grown successfully with a multileader or multitrunk habit; Trees suited for training into a standard; Plants suited for espalier training; Sample pruning specifications; A schedule for training shade trees in the urban landscape (“Trees are like children; they require about 25 years of training to create good, solid structure that will last them a lifetime”); Nursery production protocol for upright trees; Trees that often form multiple trunks; and Handy cue cards for using in the field (which can also be downloaded at www.urbantree.org).

While this book appears to be aimed at professional nurserymen, arborists, and horticulturists, Gilman broadens its appeal to students. At the beginning of every chapter is a list of objectives and key words that are boldfaced and defined in the chapter. Gilman concludes every chapter with the following three sections: “Check Your Knowledge” multiple choice questions; a cognitive “Challenge Question” that asks the reader to discuss a particular concept or technique; and “Suggested Exercises” that engage the student in an experiential learning activity

An Illustrated Guide to Pruning can be used as a reference or as a companion textbook for teaching nursery production and arboriculture courses. Very simply, it is a must-have book for anyone interested in learning or teaching the art and science of pruning.

Robert F. PolomskiSchool of Agricultural, Forestry, and Environmental Science, Clemson University

Robert F. Polomski School of Agricultural, Forestry, and Environmental Science, Clemson University

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