One of the main reasons to prune is to remove damaged branches, which allows for new growth and prevents viral, bacterial and fungal infections from entering the tree or bush. Pruning also helps your tree to grow strong.
The tools you'll commonly use will be your secateurs (for smaller branches), your hand saw (for medium branches) and your loppers and/or extension pole pruner (for harder to reach or higher branches).
We asked our friends at Southern Woods Nursery in Christchurch for some more advice, and they had this to say...
1. For trimming to a bud, you want to cut at an approx 45 degree angle around 2 - 3mm above the bud, sloping away from the bud so water flows away from it. If you cut too close, when the wound dries over in the healing process, the bud will die off and you can be left with a long stump that also dies back. If in doubt cut another mm higher as this is less damaging than cutting too close.
2. For cutting a branch, again cut at an approx 45 degree angle away from the bark ridge (the fold where the branch extends from the trunk) so water flows away from the ridge. The cut is made at the branch collar (not a flat cut against the trunk). This is the point that the would will heal from the fastest as it rolls over the wound. If the branch is small the cut can be made by a secateur, as long as you support the branch from dropping and tearing the bark. For larger branches use a pruning saw, but sometimes a triple cut is required. The first cut is on the underside of the branch, a good foot or so away from where you want to make the final cut. This cut is made to half the depth and circumference of the branch. This is to stop the bark from making a running tear as it drops. The second cut is made about a hands width away from the first cut, removing the branch completely. This takes the bulk of the weight of the branch away. The final cut is made at the branch collar to tidy the left over stump without the risk of a running bark tear.
Ensure whatever pruning tools you use, they are sharp and clean and ready to go. There are other tips and hints within our reference pages, and endless advice and support throughout the internet.