The Pruning Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face, Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask

by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan (Storey Publishing, 2011, 383 pgs.)


The somewhat ambitious subtitle of this book provides a clue about its scope: the authors, both gardening experts with many books to their names, provide a large amount of information in a small package. The entire book is presented in a Q&A format, and if you’ve been mulling a pruning question for a while, the odds are likely that the answer to your question is provided here. It is illustrated with line drawings throughout.

The Pruning Answer Book includes 13 chapters:

  • Chapter 1, “Why Prune?,” addresses the basic benefits of pruning, including promoting health and vigor, enhancing natural form, controlling size, eliminating hazards, and more.

  • Chapter 2, “When to Prune,” provides tips on the best time to take care of pruning tasks.

  • Chapter 3, “Tools and Equipment,” explores the use of loppers, pruners, saws, shears, clippers, and knives.

  • Chapter 4, “Pruning Practices Right and Wrong,” discusses cutting, pinching, shearing, lateral pruning, thinning, limbing up, and root pruning.

  • Chapters 5 through 8 and 10 through 13 cover pruning specific types of plants, including deciduous shade trees, flowering trees, evergreens, fruit and nut trees, ornamental shrubs, hedges, bush fruits, brambles, grapes, woody vines, and groundcovers.

  • Chapter 9, “Artistic Pruning,” delves into pruning topiary, creating an espalier, growing a cordon, and coppicing and pollarding.

A detailed index at the back of the book will help readers navigate the Q&A format. Also, the authors provide a handy and extensive plant-by-plant pruning guide for commonly used ornamental trees, shrubs, and vines. The guide is organized by botanical name rather than common name, but readers will find the common names listed, and the index provides entries for the common names as well.

The Pruning Answer Book may not be a book that you will want to read from cover to cover, but it is an excellent resource if you have a specific pruning project at hand and want more information about how to tackle it.

Reviewed by Andrea Kingston, RCGC library volunteer, June 2012.