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Garden Reports and Rejoicing – December 24

Hacked Plants

This pruning style makes shearing (see 15 Things #1) look artful. In fact, you can’t really call this pruning at all. This isn’t even renovation cutting…hacking or butchering is more accurate.

A renovation pruning is when a shrub gets cut down near the ground. On some shrubs such as butterfly bush this is done every spring. Occasionally it’s done to large plants to renew them and make them shorter. Rhododendrons, boxwood, yews and Japanese holly usually respond pretty well to a renovation pruning provided it’s done in the spring.

This approach is fine for butterfly bush because they grow back so quickly. When pruned down to a foot tall, an established Buddleia will be six feet tall by midsummer. But it isn’t the best choice for slower growing evergreens in the front of your house.

A mid-plant whacking of the limbs doesn’t renew a plant. Yes, sometimes the plants recover and end up being attractive again, but this usually takes a few years. In other cases the plants never look good again.

If a shrub is too large move it somewhere else. Limb it up and turn it into a small tree or leave it alone and live with it. When pruning plants, be a barber not a butcher.

This photo was taken two years after these burning bushes were hacked. They never got any more attractive. In their fourth year someone put them out of their misery and removed them altogether.

Plants that get their appeal from their sprawling, fountain shape should never be hacked. Cotoneasters like this one, for example, or Junipers.

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