Many gardeners think that pruning is some kind of dark magic that only the experts can practice successfully. Today I want to share some advice to help take the mystery out of pruning. I receive a lot of calls this time of year with questions about pruning trees and shrubs. It comes down to technique and tools: bypass pruners, loppers and even a pruning saw are essential. Deciduous shrubs like these lantana will tolerate hard pruning, which is also called renewal pruning. Once these plants have gone dormant, use your bypass pruners or loppers and cut all the stems back to within several inches from the ground. New growth will shoot up when the warmer weather of spring arrives. When pruning trees use your bypass pruners or loppers for branches smaller than one inch. Make the cut close to the branch collar, which is the swollen area where the branch and trunk meet. Pruning larger branches can result in the weight of the branch tearing the bark down the tree. For these branches use your pruning saw, and the sequential three cut method.” First, make a cut about 12 inches from the trunk on the bottom of the branch about ½ way through. Second, from the top cut through the branch a couple of inches beyond the 1st cut. Third, remove the remaining stub cleaning at the branch collar. It doesn’t require magic for proper pruning, and you get healthier plants. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.