Mistake revisited!

By | Mistakes, Pruning | No Comments


Today, when I dropped off my wife at her friend’s place, I couldn’t help myself. I opened up the back gate and checked on her rhododendrons, making steps in the snow like a criminal. Three seasons ago the lady had asked me to prune her rhododendrons. No problem. They were getting out of hand.

I reduced three of her rhododendrons gently and they came back nicely. They are covered in buds, set for next year’s bloom time. I can’t complain because everything worked out well.

Giant spider

Unfortunately, there was a fourth rhododendron where there weren’t any obvious cuts to make. It was a huge, spider-like specimen. Here’s where I made two mistakes. One mistake was reducing this shrub too hard. I should have accepted a spider-like look and left it at that. Alas, I went harder.

Now, the cuts I made were good. Rhododendron shrub reduction relies on dormant buds hiding under the bark. After pruning they push out and develop into new growth. However, you need patience. Your rhododendron should come back with time. I have seen some branches without any buds on them; and I’ve seen some branches covered in brown, desiccated buds.

Mistake number two was not warning the owner about the size reduction. She was used to seeing this specimen cover a huge portion of the bed. When she came home that was no longer the case and she wasn’t happy about it.

I found this out from her husband months later. Right after pruning she thanked me and paid me well. She was too polite to tell me how she really felt. Now every time I visit her neighbourhood, I peak in to see if the rhododendron is recovering.

Sadly, this one specimen is slow, just when I need it to perk up. See my picture below from today, January 12, 2024. Still, it looks better than last year.

It’s slowly coming back. The two bare branches on the left will have to go.


We can learn a few lessons from this blog post. Things will go wrong, whatever you do but it’s important to let the client know about the after look. This especially applies to trees and shrubs. I failed to tell my client because I wasn’t completely sure what would happen.

While the client’s disappointment bothers me-haunts me, even!- it’s a good lesson for me and others. I learned from it and moved on.