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Book Review: American Horticultural Society Pruning and Training

This large handsome book is the ultimate guide to pruning and training for experienced and novice gardeners alike. Step by step instructions are given for every pruning situation with detailed photos illustrating the main points. Even seasoned gardeners find the amount of information on the subject awesome. The coverage of the material is so extensive you will probably never need another book on this topic. A brief introduction gives the reader an overview of the topic including a botanical lesson on how plants grow as a foundation for understanding the reasons for pruning according to specified rules. The basic principles of pruning and training are presented as a prelude for the detail that is to come. The tools and equipment needed are described and proper use, tool maintenance, and safety are discussed.
The remaining 206 pages are divided up into 6 chapters, each one dealing with a different kind of plant: ornamental trees, fruit trees, ornamental shrubs, soft fruist, climbing plants, and roses. Each chapter opens with a description of the methods used for the group and proceeds with detailed instructions for specific plants. Special techniques such as topiary, pollarding, and pleaching are included where relevant.
The chapters on ornamental trees, ornamental shrubs, and climbing plants contain an alphabetical plant-by-plant dictionary in which extra consideration is given to varieties that require special treatment. For example, the entry for Jasmine (Jasminum spp) includes separate entries for winter jasmine (J. nudiflorum), common jasmine (J. officinale), and J. polyanthum. Six other jasmines are given brief consideration with reference to the three already discussed.
The chapters on fruit trees, soft fruits, and roses are organized into groups that require identical pruning and training techniques. Basic procedures, routine tasks, and common problems are considered first, followed by more specific information for each type of plant in the group. In the chapter on fruit trees, 14 pages are devoted to apples and give methods of pruning apples trees including fan form, cordon, and espalier. Numerous pictures and diagrams of each method illustrate the text.
This text is nothing short of amazing and includes everything you need to know to prune and train over 800 plants. The presentation does more than set out directions; it develops an understanding of the “whys” of pruning and this helps builds confidence in an apprentice pruner. The organization of the material with general information giving an overview and then leading to more detail helps the novice deal with information overload and facilitates the learning process. This is a great reference book and has a permanent place in my library.

This review is for the hardcover edition published in 1996. A less expensive soft cover edition was pulished in 2011 but I have not read it and can not comment on it.

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