Learn / Ask The Landscape Professional
We rent our house and back in the spring our tenants hired someone to "prune" our beautiful azaleas like you can see in the picture. What's your reaction?
To be honest, when I see these over-enthusiastic pruning jobs with shrubs
pruned into "meatballs" and "tuna cans" they are pruning atrocities that make
me ill. In your case, STOP your tenants and their "landscaper" from touching
your shrubs and contact me later this fall or in the spring. If you have a highmaintenance
English-style, formal garden, this type of pruning is appropriate,
otherwise it's not.
All plants have a "natural growth habit" and although some of them naturally
grow into meatball shapes, most don't. When shrubs are pruned, it matters
WHERE they are pruned, because cutting in different spots on the plant causes
the plant to react differently. In general, wherever you prune, the plant is
stimulated to grow more. If the tip of a twig that contains the terminal bud is
cut, the buds below that point will be highly stimulated to grow and "thicken"
the plant. That is called "heading pruning".
If you are looking to reduce the size of a shrub or to "guide" where it is growing, you will be doing what is
called "thinning pruning". In this case you remove the entire branch back where it started along the main
truck or stem. This type of pruning doesn't stimulate growth as much as "heading pruning", although as light
penetrates the canopy, new shoots may be initiated which will need to be thinned.
A variation of thinning pruning is "renewal pruning". This works especially
well on shrubs like old, leggy lilacs. In this case, Sprigs & Twigs uses
thinning cuts to remove about 1/3 of the older wood each year for three
years. This approach maintains the overall shape of the shrub while reducing
its volume and height over time.
At Sprigs & Twigs, we encounter many situations where a shrub is totally
out-of-control and needs to be "rejuvenation pruned". This looks more
drastic than it is, but it is an effective way to restore a healthy shrub and
stimulate it to send up new shoots and grow back into your landscape. Not
all shrubs are good candidates for rejuvenation pruning and sometimes
replacement is the best course of action.
If you value your landscape and you want to prune yourself, get the proper
equipment, learn about pruning techniques or hire someone you are
absolutely certain knows what they are doing. Your neighbors will appreciate
it and you will avoid years of recovery from poorly done pruning.
Sprigs & Twigs is considering offering a pruning class at our Gales Ferry office sometime in the upcoming
months if there is enough interest. Contact our office if you would like to attend.
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About Linda Lillie
Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier
landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry
service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of
Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national
award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.