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Report From PIA – July 11

So often my consultation clients describe a shrub as being “totally out of control.” This doesn’t mean that the landscaping is rioting, being hysterical or smashing the windows, of course… most often they are just saying that the plants are getting larger.

There are some who prefer all of the shrubs to be sheared into balls and cubes. They’d rather have yews that look like coffee tables, all flat tops and skinny stem legs. And they want hydrangeas that are clipped back in the fall or spring into neatly rounded sticks.

Those who subscribe to this school of landscaping pay a price, particularly with the hydrangeas. Ultimately, of course, they don’t get shorter plants because the hydrangeas replace their growth in one season. Sadder, however, is that they sacrifice the very thing that makes the hydrangea an interesting plant: outrageously large flowers.

Since this shrub forms its flower buds the previous year, that cut-them-shorter pruning removes many of the next season’s flowers. The photo below was taken last week, and is an example of a plant that has been “neatened” in the fall.

There is a time to admit that trying to control nature can not only be a waste of our time, but that we lose something valuable in that effort.

This is the perfect example of a hydrangea that has been cut down by half in the fall, into a neatly rounded mound of sticks. Perhaps it was also cleaned up in the spring. In any case, the shrub has replaced all the growth that was removed, but only with green leaves. There are few flowers even in this, a year when most hydrangeas are loaded with blossoms. So here we have a green blob of a plant, with a few blue blobs of flowers...

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