Everyone's had a memorable experience with an overzealous barber. A couple weeks of baseball caps and hair gel usually get the victim through, but with shrubs, there's no quick relief.
At our first home, a beautiful, but vigorous juniper hedge grew along the back fence. It provided privacy from the neighbor, but looked unruly. Envisioning a clipped English formal hedge and excited about our brand new hedge trimmer, my husband cut straight across the top and skimmed the sides. Trouble was that the previous owners had used the same practice. When we were done, all the green was gone, and so was our privacy. When we sold the house four years later, the view from the family room still consisted of several stick-like shrubs and that neighbor's clutter.
shrubs are trimmed in a line horizontal to the ground, each branch end doubles, growing a second branch out of the cut. With each subsequent swipe, the branch continues to divide, thickening the top and side layers, blocking the sun and choking back growth except at the outermost layer. Eventually the shrub will consist of a heavy stemmed base with sporadic side growth and a "haircut" of leaves or needles at the top. There is no design value in a scalped shrub, and it can take years to mitigate the damage. As shrubs are a prominent part of the classic residential landscape design, either the plant has to be replaced, which is costly, or the homeowner must endure many remedial seasons which may or not be successful. In the meantime, the curb appeal of the home is diminished.
"foundation" planting popular in the fifties and sixties utilized shrubbery to line the front of a home in order to cover up the lower portion, which might be concrete or a less attractive material than the upper section of the home. Most homes have evolved away from this landscape design concept in favor of a layered or curved approach, but bushes are still a substantial part of the overall look as they add structure and volume. If properly maintained, shrubbery can be a low cost, but attractive accent.
burning bush, ninebark or spirea, spring is the time to trim. Remember the "opposite" rule in gardening. Always do anything significant to a plant in the season opposite its peak blooming time. Fall bulbs like gladiolia are planted in the Spring. Spring bloomers like tulips and daffodils are planted in the Fall. Same for shrubs.
hydrangea to just above the tiny new buds which have just appeared. Cut off the dried moppy heads. They make beautiful dried flowers for arrangements.
Roses should be pruned back to just above the third new bud on each branch, removing the large seed pods, branches burnt by winter and sucker branches sprouting from the base. No need to cut the whole plant back hard.
No sunlight, no growth. It's simple.
We all know how good it is to experience a "good hair" day. Folks are far more confident and carry themselves better when they feel their appearance is at its best. Why should the garden, which is the frame for the home differ?
And my darling brother now wishes he still had that crop of hair--no matter the cut!
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