Sure, it's winter but it's also time to to evaluate the stripped-down landscape for form and balance, and to prune while lines are so clear.
When the leaves fall away from branches we like to see beautiful lines, where a trunk and main limbs form a graceful sculpture. Within those lines we want every main limb to branch and rebranch to fill its own and only its own part of the plant's canopy. (More help to make this happen, in Prune to keep a tree small.)
If you're never thought about this aspect of a tree or shrub, winter is certainly the time to look and assess your landscape plants and other features.
Even if you can't prune right now (the scarcity of daylight hours certainly can be limiting!) you can take photos or tie string around limbs-to-be-removed to guide your clippers later.
The Japanese maple tree featured at the top of this page has just a few main branches and those are spread so each covers its own territory. That's good! Yet the branches that stem from each main limb lack grace. Perhaps someone has been shearing their tips so that none have elongated to claim dominance in their sectors. Now would be the time to do some shaping and thinning, eliminating branches that are not doing anything except duplicating an effort. (See what we did to this and other Japanese maples.)
We addressed these plants in a pruning session during late winter. Follow these links to see what we did, and how, to the Japanese maple and to the globe blue spruce.
Photos above: ©2012 by Barb Sturtz