Reducing native shrubs by half

By February 17, 2020 No Comments

It’s common in landscape maintenance to get owner requests. Like the shrub request examined in this blog post. And in this case, I had enough time to do it and it didn’t derail our plans for the day.

When requests are more involved and there is a chance they could derail your plans for the day, politely decline, make a note of them and do them as soon as possible.

Boxed in by Indian plums

The owner saw me working in a dry river bed in front of her unit and cried about being boxed in by her horrible shrubs. She meant Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), a Pacific Northwest native with beautiful flowers and edible plums. (Cerasiformis means cherry-shaped.)

The other two offenders were dogwoods (Cornus) and one willow (Salix).

All three shrubs grow really well, so well, they block the lady’s windows when they flush out with new growth. She wanted them reduced by roughly one half. Considering it was a mild mid-February day, it was OK to do this job. Quickly. I still had a crew to rejoin and lead.


I had brand new Felco4 snips but I would recommend a hand saw and loppers for the willow and Indian plums.

The idea is to reduce the shrubs by one half but it should still look natural. To achieve a natural look, try to stagger the cuts so they’re not all made at the same height. That’s what happens when we use machines.

This is also a good time to take out some of the big dogwood canes. Identify the biggest cane and flush cut it at ground level. You can eliminate the biggest canes over a few seasons. Don’t rush this.

Left: original height, Right: reduced by half.

Reduced by half. Only clean-up remains.


The owner came out to thank me before I even finished the job. People appreciate it when you pay attention to their requests. I told her last week I would attempt this week, and I did. She’s happy and I can move on to other sections on site.

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