Pruning Shrubs

Give Your Overgrown Shrub a Handsome Pruning

by Mike Dooley

In the many consultations that I do, I find a lot of common problems. What to do with overgrown shrubs is an ever-present issue. The options are as follows:

• Cut it down and be left with a giant hole in the landscape.

• Have the “lawn slave” continue to get on a ladder and shear it until he/she falls off and refuses to do it anymore.

• Hire someone to do it for the rest of your life.

• Do nothing and let it take over the place.

• Listen to Mike and prune it into a “tree form.”

What is a “tree form,” you ask? This simply means trimming from the bottom, not the top. The goal is to wind up with a multi-trunk lollipop. (Think BIG bonsai.)

Now let’s start pruning. You’ll need loppers (long-handled pruners) and hand pruners. Pick the heights that you want to have the leaves (canopy) start at, and trim off all the leaves and small branches below that point. Depending on the size of the plant the canopy should start at 4 feet to 6 feet from the ground. When you are done you should be left with four to eight major branches.

Start with the obvious small cuts, and as you work the shape will start to reveal itself. You should be sitting on the ground under the plant, but that makes it hard to see what to trim next. Have the family “critic” stand at a distance and give advice on what to trim next to get the shape uniform. While you’re deciding what to trim next, simply shake the branch in question so the “critic” can decide whether or not to cut it. Make all cuts flush with the trunk that it originates from.

Please don’t get carried away and trim an entire hedge this way. Single specimens only please. For more information, my website has “how to“ videos.

Happy Gardening!