We are coming into the fall season when most people begin to think about cleaning up yards and landscaping before winter. We often think this is a good time of year to prune our plants to remove all the dead stuff before winter. But as a rule of thumb, fall is a bad time to prune. Pruning stimulates new growth in plants and in the fall most plants are trying to go dormant, so you see the problem. According to most experts it is usually best to prune trees, shrubs and garden plants when they are in their dormant period, preceding the time of active growth so the pruning wound heals quicker. The best time to prune is generally late winter or early spring. The major exception to this rule is plants that flower in the spring from buds made the previous growing season. Winter or spring pruning would destroy the current year’s bloom so these plants are typically best pruned after the blossom period. This is not a lesson in gardening so we will not go into the plants that fall into each category; you can do that homework yourself.
Sometimes pruning requires just minor trimming away of dead branches or stems, other times it requires cutting almost all the growth away. Grapes, for example, are pruned in their dormant period (between leaf drop in the fall and bud break in the spring) and involves heavy pruning, sometimes cutting away up to 90% of the old wood, to promote growth of new wood where the fruit is located. Light pruning does not promote adequate fruiting whereas heavy pruning promotes the greatest quality of grapes.
Pruning is done to remove the parts of the plant that are no longer useful for growth. We prune our plants for two reasons – it provides a functional purpose of improving the health of the plant, and it provides an aesthetic function of making the plant more attractive.
Just as we prune our plants for the two reasons just mentioned, the Bible talk about Jesus pruning His followers so we can be healthier and produce more fruit. If plants could talk, we are sure they would tell us that pruning is painful. In fact, horticulturists and arborists talk of pruning wounds that need to be healed. When Jesus prunes us, it is often painful as well, but also necessary for our health and growth. Jesus wants to cut away those things in our lives that are causing rot and decay and are getting in the way of making us more like Him. Click here to read what Jesus says in John 15:1-8.
So hear this, just as all plants need to be regularly pruned, we too need regular pruning. Think back again to the pruning of grapes. To the casual observer, it would look as if the grape grower is destroying the grapevine by cutting everything away, but in fact, just the opposite is true, the gardener knows this heavy pruning provides for a greater abundance of fruit. Allow Jesus the expert gardener to prune you. Sometimes just a minor trimming back is needed and other times He cuts off 90% of your wood, so you can produce much more fruit!
Thank you Jesus for being our Master Gardener, and for pruning away those things that are not useful (and often destructive) in our lives!
New Bern, North Carolina