This is the time of year when some landscape plants have a bad hair day every day. This is especially true for shrubs and hedges. This is a good time to give most of them a haircut, or even a new hairstyle.
I say most shrubs and hedges because some haven’t bloomed yet, and you should wait until after they’ve bloomed to avoid cutting off flower buds. If they’ve leafed out, check the branches to see if there are any more buds. If there are, you may want to hold off to see if they burst.
We are just coming into the season to trim conifers like yews (Taxus) that are so popular as hedges in our area. Be sure that the new growth is finished. Premature trimming means they’ll need a second trimming after the new growth is finished.
Most people trim shrubs to reduce their height, girth or both. It’s easy to identify these plants. They’ve outgrown their space. They’ve grown so tall that they interfere with a view, or they just look straggly and unkempt. Look closer, however, and you may see bark chewed off, especially around the base. This is an indication that your valuable shrubs doubled as the local restaurant for varmints, probably field mice and rabbits. If twigs are chewed higher up the branches, they may have provided deer with their winter sustenance.
Trim shrubs in the same way as trees. Use pruning shears or loppers where practical. Use a hand pruning saw for branches that are too big for loppers. Don’t leave stubs. Cut back to a fork or just above a leaf. If a branch collar is visible, leave it. Cut just outside the branch collar like you would a tree.
You need to use a different technique for trimming hedges. Hedges are planted for screening, defining boundaries or other specific purposes. They are pruned to maintain their form so they can continue to do that job. Ideally, pruning shears should be used. But they are rather slow and tedious. So, most people use hedge trimmers. Hedge trimmers may leave stubble, but it’s much finer than the branch stubs of trees. It isn’t as damaging to the plants, either, so we aren’t as fussy about leaving this stubble on hedges. Be warned, however, it will look like a bad haircut for awhile.
If this sounds like more work than you want to tackle, trade your loppers for golf clubs, but call us first. We can tame those shaggy shrubs and overgrown hedges into shape. Whether you prefer a formal look or a more natural one, we can make it happen. And if those shrubs are in need of rejuvenation, we can help get them back to their original beauty.
After growing up in a family that gardened, your post hit all the top points on trimming shrubs hedges. Keep it up.