Step 1: Look for Awkward Stems
When the leaves of a deciduous tree have fallen, take a look at its overall shape. Look for stems that are badly placed, or those growing too far down the trunk. This tree has an awkward stem growing from the base that must be removed. First, remove any dead and damaged wood. Then use a pruning saw to make a straight cut through any branches growing from the base of the tree.
Step 2: Thin Stems
Prune thin stems with loppers or pruners, taking them back to 1⁄2 in (2 cm) from the ring of slight swelling where the stem and trunk meet, known as the branch collar.
Step 3: Cut Thick Branches
Thick branches, and those that are likely to tear, are cut in stages. First, cut under the stem, a short distance from the trunk. Cut about a quarter of the way through the underside of the branch.
Step 4: Make a Second Cut
Make a second cut above the lower one, and aim to join the two. Be sure your tools are sharp to prevent snagging.
Step 5: Branches May Snap
Even if you have taken great care, a heavy branch may still snap off, but it doesn’t matter at this point, since this is not the final cut. Don’t worry if the cut snags as it falls away.
Step 6: Remove Stub
Remove the stub by using the technique outlined in steps 3 and 4. Make your final cut just slightly away from the branch collar.
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Trees that bleed sap when cut, such as the magnolia shown here, are best pruned in summer.