to shear or not to shear...

cheryllou(mid-Tn zone 6)March 19, 2006

I have several foundation shrubs, yews, boxwood, & hollies which are getting bigger than I want them to. I have heard that you should NEVER use electric shears to trim & shape them. I am wondering "why". To trim back an occasional long stem I can understand doing it one at a time with hand clippers but these all need to be made smaller each year to keep them from getting so large I would have to remove them. Electric shears would make this a lot neater & managable. What is the best way to accomplish this? Please reply to Thanks

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hoyess(z5 ON Can)

I have a similar question for this year! I noticed a small hedge trimmer called a "shrubber" in a garden tool catalogue this year & was seriously considering it. It is about 6" long & works like a hedge trimmer but lighter & smaller. I have a 2 1/2 property with lots of beds. I keep it up all myself and was considering using this for spireas, potentillas, small yews, small boxwoods etc. Sharon

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 7:50PM
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cheryllou(mid-Tn zone 6)

Hoyess, I saw the Hedger in Lowes. On the specs., it said it took 16 hr. to recharge & the charge only lasts 30 min. I know I use my existing hedge trimmer (electric) a lot longer than 30 min. each time I get them out to trim. I think this would be a real agrivation. Anyone had one of these?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 5:52AM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

The differences in doing hand trimming and hedge cutters is the way the bush will grow afterwards. Following the branch back into the bush, cutting near the center, allows light to reach the inner bush. Keeps the bush full, twigs sprout and keep leaves from the inside out, top to bottom. New leaves need lots of light allowing bush to stay full for good bush shape. This kind of trimming, more time consuming method of shaping of bush, will make for a more fully developed bush, healthier plant.

Hedge cutters, shearing the outside of bushes, just makes branch ends sprout. Allows leaves to sprout on the outside of bush. The cut twig's ends sprout more growth vigorously, but not the whole twig, just the ends. As you continue shearing the outside branches and twigs, the inner leaves cease growing because they get no light at all. Bush doesn't get full at the bottom, center or stay covered all over. Often appears leggy, lots of stem, branches visible at the lower bush area. Centers will get holes, they have no small branches with leaves to cover area. Such a growth pattern is unhealthy to having a long lived, healthy hedge that is a good screen.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 10:48PM
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I just saw a segment on trimming boxwood on TV this weekend and am excited that I remember it for this question. (Sorry to say that I don't remember which show, though, so I can't give it its due.)

It was a discussion about not shearing boxwood. Goodhors mostly covered it above, except that they also talked about how the high humidity in the center of an overgrown plant (one that hadn't had its inner branches selectively lightened up) encouraged those inner stems to think that they were in a new dirt environment, and they would then sprout roots. Hand plucking or cutting out selected inner branches would let the air in and reduce humidity - and arrest that non-inner leaf producing problem.

I remember it because it was just fascinating. I've seen those dead-looking innards before and I've even noticed the roots, but I never put two and two together.

Another reason given against shearing the top of boxwood, in addition to those already mentioned, is that box is a leaf that protects itself by holding in the moisture. (glossy, etc.) Shearing nicks the leaves indiscriminately and cuts down its defenses.

The last thing I remember from the show is that, although hand plucking or cutting individual branches is always better than shearing, if you have to shear, shear the sides but never the tops.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 10:43AM
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Since you will not be nipping off the ends of all the branches if you prune by hand, but removing whole branches instead, you will not need to do it so often.

The best thing you can do is to grow plants that won't get too big for the space where they're planted - ie no trimming needed. The second best thing is to prune by hand, carefully and infrequently.

BTW, does anyone ever reply by email? I don't, but I'm just curious if anyone else does.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 10:28PM
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