Remove one branch at a time and regularly step back to check your work. Once you’ve made the cut it’s too late to change your mind! If you’re removing a whole branch, cut it back to the trunk but not flush – cut next to the branch collar (the swelling where the branch and trunk join).
If you’re shortening a branch, you should always cut just above a healthy bud, pair of buds or side shoot. This is because new branches will grow from the next bud below the point where you cut.
Aim for a gap of 0.5cm between your cut and the bud. If you cut too close you may damage the bud, but if you leave a large gap the excess branch may rot and expose the plant to infections.
Try to prune back to an outfacing bud. If you choose one that faces inwards, all the new branches will grow in towards the centre of the tree, making it look messy and tangled.
If you can, make the cut at a 45-degree angle to stop moisture collecting at the wound. This will help it seal faster. And make sure to avoid branches with nests – the birds might not be using them at the moment, but many species return to the same nests year after year.