When shrub pruning goes wrong

By August 7, 2023 No Comments


It’s rare for me to see a shrub pruning job where I didn’t like the cuts and the strategy. But I found one last week along a chain link fence. Now, before I dissect the whole thing, let’s remember that the world didn’t end; the Mahonia shrubs will grow out again. Nobody died but the lessons are there for you to take away.

The cuts

First, let’s consider the pruning cuts. Clearly, judging from the shredded tissues, they were made by power shears, the go-to machine for landscapers. It’s quick and it packs lots of power. However, considering the size of the stems, hand snips or loppers might have been better. Not faster mind you but they would have made nicer, cleaner cuts. I shot a YouTube short to show you how to fix the damage.

Additionally, making hand cuts allows you to stagger the cuts for a more natural look. The power shears run over the top at one level.

Shredded Mahonia stems

The big picture

Before you start pruning, always ask yourself why. I’m already assuming you know how to make your cuts. Now I need to know why you are pruning. The Mahonia “balls” look fine but zoom out at the big picture. The chain-link fence should alert you right away: originally, the Mahonias were installed so they could provide a screen between the two properties. Who wants to see cars coming and going and listen to the noise? If you let the Mahonias grow up they will form a nice buffer that filters out noise and possibly even air pollution.

This is another reason why I hate rushed pruning jobs. Before you prune look around and make sure everything makes sense. Don’t rush in with your tools. Zoom out and look at the big picture. Then start pruning.

The Mahonias will be left alone from now on. If they start flopping over, we’ll tie them to the fence. We need them to form a natural green barrier.

Let these Mahonias grow up to form a barrier

Leave a Reply