Monthly Archives

June 2021

Another Rhododendron massacre

By | Plants, Pruning | No Comments

Power shearing, really?

I get it, in commercial landscaping time is short. Crews have lots of work during the day and it’s not a good idea to get stuck on one task for too long. But there is a price to pay for this rush, especially when it involves plants.

I thought about this as I waited for my son to get picked up by his buddies and driven to a bike park for hours of fun. As I waited, I examined the landscaping in the roundabout and came across freshly sheared rhododendrons.

Now, this isn’t the first time I blog about this. I don’t think rhododendrons are good plants for shearing but I understand why people don’t want to hand snip them into shape. It takes time. And time may be short.


Rhododendrons are woody shrubs. They’re not soft like, for example, boxwood. The power shearing shreds the plant tissues, leaving stubs and shredded stems and leaves. And it looks awful. It’s like punishing the shrub after it does its job of flowering nicely.

Power sheared rhodo

Whenever I see power sheared rhodos, I feel like reaching for my hand snips and cleaning things up. And, considering that this specimen is next to a high-profile sidewalk, that might not be a bad idea. But again, it would take time.

A rhodo injured by power shears
Remove stubs like this

I also observed injured plant tissues and obvious stubs because rhodos aren’t made for power shearing. It’s important to clean things up with hand snips.

Hand pruning

Hand pruned rhodo

The above rhododendron was hand pruned fairly quickly without air and noise pollution. We removed one to two year’s growth thereby keeping the shrub in its available space; and we pinched off any spent flowers so the shrub doesn’t waste precious energy on seed production.

There aren’t any shredded leaves or stems visible and everything looks fine and green. Also, note the timing of our pruning, right after flowering.


For best results, hand prune your rhododendrons right after flowering. Don’t reach for your power shears to save time. The shrubs look awful after power shearing. Save time elsewhere.

The case of shredded Hostas

By | Edging, Plants | No Comments

Shredded Hostas

As soon as you see the client slowly approaching in her car, window rolled down, you know there might trouble coming your way. And sure enough, the poor lady looked distressed.

When her lawn was edged with a vertical line edger, her beautiful Hostas got shredded. She hated it and I hate it, too. It looks awful. She has every right to mention it. Take a look at the photos below.

Does lawn care come first, at the expense of landscape plants? I don’t think so. I can see why the lady would be distressed about her Hostas. It’s spring and they’re finally leafed out and looking great. The only thing left for the Hostas to do is push out their flowers.

Incidentally, this also happens with trees. Do lawn care machines have the right of way? No, they don’t. We have to avoid all tree and lawn care machine conflicts.

If you want to find out why, you can take my inexpensive online course on lawn care mistakes. Click here for details and let me be your teacher.


So, what do we do about this problem? We can move the lawn edge out but this would require a lot of extra labor. Plus, the lawn section is already narrow.

We can skip the edging altogether and leave the grass shaggy under the hostas. Until the boss shows up and freaks out.

A better solution would be to use a blade edger but this isn’t a popular choice because it involves a different machine and going back.

My compromise solution was to prune off the shredded leaves so as to remove the source of the lady’s stress. I also pruned off the stems that would very likely get shredded next week. With the lawn edge nicely exposed, the workers should be able to edge the lawn without shredding any plant tissues.

After pruning with the lawn edge exposed.


Lawn care machines don’t have the right of way. Shredding landscape plants is terrible and your clients have every right to express their displeasure. Plants should look healthy; not have their leaves shredded weekly. Be nice to hostas.

First lawn care service disaster

By | Lawn Care, machines | No Comments

Not a good start

When you do lawn care for the first time at a new site, you really want to shine and impress your new clients. I know I do. And as a proud Red Seal Journeyman Horticulturist, I expect quality work from myself and my crew members. But earlier this spring things didn’t go well for me.

Eager to get started, I mapped out my section, picked up the line edger and went to work. Then, just three yards into my section, I did a vertical edging job on a small tree well and proceeded to blow out a patio door. Oops, that’s not good. And just think, I have an online course on lawn care mistakes.

Now, normally landscape companies have glass service people on speed dial because accidents like this happen. Except in this case, the patio door had built-in blinds which made in a $1000+ repair job.

Built-in blinds made this a very costly mistake.

Red faced

Accidents like this happen but not to me. It was very humbling, considering my work shirt is outfitted with landscape industry certified patches. I had no idea doors had built-in blinds. That really stung.

The only silver lining is that the crew members got to see the human Red Seal Vas who very occasionally makes a mistake.

Two lessons

There are two lessons we can learn from my costly mistake.

One, danger in lawn care is always seconds away if you get sloppy or cocky. Mowers and trimmers pick up objects easily and cause damage to windows, cars, and even people. Safety first!

Two, it makes no sense to vertical a small tree well with small stones showing. It’s better to ignore it and use a blade edger later. Blade edgers have a metal guard and a rubber flap which makes them much safer to use.

Edging a small tree well wasn’t worth the headache and the steep cost. Use blade edgers for tree wells and put your food behind the machine for extra protection when there is a patio window behind you.

Be careful. Don’t get caught red-faced like I did.