Start with why
Always start with why. Why are you pruning your shrubs? What’s the goal? In this blog post we cover pruning for increased security.
The owners living behind this yew (Taxus) hedge were concerned about degenerates entering the gated complex, hidden by the hedge. And, while I don’t have any neighborhood crime statistics to share with you, the job was fairly easy.
The new desired hedge level was marked with tape which made it easy. I used power shears and made a line along the front and then back. In step two, I used loppers to take out the biggest wood. You can try to use your power shear blades but it’s difficult and the wood gets chewed up. Use loppers.
The key is to lop out the middle stems slightly below the new top level so they aren’t visible when you drive by. The hedge will green up next year.
Now that we had made it harder for perverts to enter the site undetected, we turned to driving sight lines.
This Rhododendron hedge made it hard for people driving to and from the gate to see other vehicles so we were asked to lower it by a half.
If you immediately start to worry about Rhododendron flower buds, you are correct. Rhododendron buds are set in summer, after flowering. Therefore, any pruning in December would result in lost blooms. But, safety trumps horticulture, usually.
Note that this pruning job was reduction pruning, not renovation pruning. Renovation pruning is much harsher and leaves lots of naked woody stems. Here we wanted a green Rhododendron hedge but lower.
So, any harsh stem cuts were made inside the hedge where they are hidden. This was much harder to achieve with the far left specimen. I had to leave two naked stems. It looks weird but remember that Rhododendrons have latent buds in their stems. These swell up and pop after pruning. This is a common response to pruning, especially with rough-barked Rhododendrons. If your Rhododendrons are smooth-barked, you’re pushing your luck.
Later that morning, the owner across the street opened up her garage and beamed at us. She loved our reduction pruning job. We reduced the shrub size roughly by half while still keeping it green and preserving some flowers. Gold stars!