hard hard pruning of evergreen shrub

civ_IV_fanMay 9, 2011

I have these shrubs in front of my house. Each hedge is three or four plants. I want to either pull it entirely or prune it really hard, to like half of its current size. What is the best way to approach this?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

get rid of them ....

though you can take off half the height.. it might be 3 to 5 years.. before it fills in enough on top ... so that you dont see the naked interior ...

it might be a project for my back 2 acres ... but this is the prime focal point of the front of your castle...

is this really a place to be doing a long term renovation project ..????

otherwise.. insure there are no utilities out there ... and just start digging ....


    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 9:03AM
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i thought that might be the case. it is not the place for a long term project, you are right!. i'll do my best to pull it and i'll probably replace it with some boxwoods that i will keep small and maybe a vine on the lattice behind. any landscaping ideas welcome, i am new to this. it is part to full shade, more sun towards the left of the picture.

my neighbor has an identical bush on the border of our properties. i need to cut it back about one foot because it is encroaching on my driveway, which sits about two feet from the property line. can i lop off a foot getting to the woody sticks beneath? the picture above is old - we already have bud out and about a centimeter of growth.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 9:19AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

is that a painted wood porch ....

if so.. after removal.. the first thing to do is expand the planting bed.. and leave 2 to 3 feet of future space for work on the porch .... meaning half the potential width of the plant.. plus 3 feet ....

as to the neighbors.. talk with them ... in theory you can cut anything that overhangs the property line .... but that will also leave an ugly .. perhaps the neighbor wont mind removal also ...


    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 9:45AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

here's what you do ....

prime planting time is most likely past ... but you dont say where you are ....

cut the left most one.. down to where you want it ... and a foot or so from the driveway ... for access ....

and then observe it for a month or two ...

it will either respond to your satisfaction ... and you can then cut the others ...

or it will show you why you have to go dig them out ...

what do you think


    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 12:29PM
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good idea, ken. i am in cincinnati. we have had an extremely wet spring, the ground is saturated and temperatures are high this week.

what i'm thinking about now is if i can replant without so much symmetry. the house is really symmetrical though. i am wondering if it would look decent to have a few boxwoods on one side and something completely different on the other (left) side where there is more sun.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 12:34PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

All this discussion has gone on without actually knowing what the plants are. Can you give us a close-up of the foliage?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 1:43PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

why flora ..

they are overgrown .. improperly sited .... and stupid ...

[stupid being the key] .... lol

they look like the yews i had to shear trim in front of mom and dads for 30 years .. nurturing a hate equivalent to the white hot heat of a million hot suns .... until i had the pleasure of ripping them out.. for the reasons noted above .... they were the 60's version of dwarf alberta spruce.. the only thing the bigboxstore sold cheap ... [except for the privet on the back fence.. which i had to shear the next day]

i was just trying to be nice.. and encourage them to try what they dreamt up ...

im surprised they havnt rotted the porch .. unless its stone or brick behind ...

i am going to guess .... just like mom's.. they are planted 12 to 16 inches from the foundation ... at that point.. does it matter what they are?? [in metric that is 'too dam close']

actually.. you got me.. ID is always the starting point.. i let my hatred rule me ...


    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 3:46PM
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ahahah. will post close shots this evening. the wooden front porch is on piers so i am not concerned about them being to close to the foundation. otherwise you nailed basically how i feel about them.

i'm hoping boxwoods and some hostas will look better. i am afraid of creating another travesty like what is there now, i am not that good at this stuff.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 3:50PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

in my world.. as warped as it is.. a boxwood is the same as a privet.. requiring 1 to 3 trimmings per year ...

i dont live in a world where i have to trim my bushes ...

in fact.. it brings back nightmares ...

there is no excitement like shearing the electric cord ....

if you cant find something better in the plant kingdom than a cheap bush you have to shear every year.. i will eat my shoe ....

do your homework.. find something that is carefree.. and pay a little extra for it .... so you can sit on the porch and drink beer .. instead of trimming the bushes ... dont you think???

and no.. i have no recommendations ... walk the 'hood.. find out what other peeps have done ... ask them what it is.. or snap a pic.. and we can tell you ....

i fear you are thinking lineally in the 'bigboxstore offerings' mode.. instead of really solving your problem ...

whats the point if you replace one problem.. with the next problem????

see box .. step out of box .. explore other options ...


    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 5:08PM
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I would disagree that the shrubs - whatever they are - are necessarily overgrown. They seem to have been more or less easily maintained so far to be even with the level of the porch and not over-reaching onto the lawn. And they look perfectly healthy as far as the distance of the pic indicates. So removal is more a question of choice or plant preference than it is to the plants being inappropriate to the setting. Before advising on the suitability of hard pruning, it IS pretty important to ID what kind of shrub it is - some respond to this treatment much better than others.

From a design aesthetic, the house IS very symmetrical so a symmetrical planting may be most pleasing visually. But if the OP chooses not to plant symmetrically, it looks like they will be limited to selection by what appears to be a walkway or curbing on the rightside that will restrict what can be planted there without the need for pruning or other routine maintenance.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 12:14PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Ken - I'd just like to know what we are dealing with before pronouncing on it. The OP wants to know if they are amenable to hard pruning. Without knowing the species we can't say. As Gardengal says, whether they are overgrown or not depends on what they are. I'd also agree that with a house like that a symmetrical planting, at least as a framework, is most sympathetic. As for the regular trimming, personally I enjoy tending my garden just as much as looking at it - probably more, in fact.... and a little hedge that size doesn't need electric trimmers. You could do it by hand in 20 minutes without worrying about electrocution:)

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 1:30PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i did NOT say my hatred was rational ...

i HATE shearing shrubs.. and would replace or destroy anything that requires such ...

its right up there with the 1960 canned asparagus my mother forced me to eat after 20 minutes of boiling... i still cant force myself to eat asparagus .... no matter how rationally everyone tells me it so great ... I HATE SHEARING SHRUBS!!!!

that is all i am saying ...

the suggestion that the status quo remain .. is one version of reality .... should the poster not like manual labor .. they should be encouraged to replace the planting.. as much as they should be encouraged not to ...

most peeps do NOT come here.. simply to hear one side of the options.. they come for a diversity of opinion ... whether or not it is rational.. lol ...

i was messing with ya flora.. you know that right???


    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 2:05PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Fear not Ken - I know you of old and am not of a sensitive disposition. Your ranting is a delight.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 4:50PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

All I know is I'm not showing Ken a picture of the yew hedge in front of my house. LOL It could spawn a tense, tenacious Taxus tirade trouncing the titanic tackiness. ;-)


    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 6:54PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

whatever you have in front of your house is super peachy with me..

but if you ask my opinion.. i will tell you what i think..

thats the point of coming and asking.. dont you think ..

whats with all the T's tsuga... a little alliteration to loosen the lingo???


ps: ... you all want to hear what i think about maples and growing hosta [or anything] under them.... thought not.. lol ...

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 7:18PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I'm with you Ken, I hate shearing shrubs and in most cases hate looking at them in other's yards as well. For a sheared hedge that actually looks pretty nice but some true dwarf rhododendrons and hostas would look nicer...

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 6:21PM
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okay sorry it took so long, here is a close up. sorry it is with my cell phone camera.

I have never seen the bush have any kind of berries. The needles are firm but not too prickly.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 8:02AM
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It's a yew, Taxus species. And very amenable to hard pruning :-)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 11:20AM
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good news! so if i go past the green into the woody material it will still survive? is it too late this year to do this (already have 1-2 inches of new growth)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 11:30AM
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so i'm sitting here thinking about these plants and just had a rad idea. could i prune them back to the large-diameter trunks towards the center of the bush? it would then almost look like a little tree and if some new growth started it could look pretty neat, i think.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 12:33PM
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Those are yews and they look good - they dont look overgrown either. Those hedges could grow even more vertically and provide even more privacy for those folks (or items!) on the verandah. Yews are slow growers and they can be pruned back but will take a while to fill in.
A compromise might be to add interest by leaving the end plants (thats four of them; two either end of your two small "hedges") and prune back the tops of the middle of the hedge. You could interplant between the (temporarily) bare bushes with flowers.
I used this approach with a foundation planting of old maxi rhodies - rather than pulling them out I cut them back a bit and interplanted with new small hybrid rhodies - as a result I needed fewer new material and it saved me money. After a year or two it looked terrific and the old rhodies were just a hardly noticeable part of the "visual" and I gradually removed them altogether. In my case what I would do now if I had to do that over would be to interplant with Otto Luykens laurel. This is a low habitat laurel and its easy to shear as well.

If you remove the yews this somewhat narrow house will look unbalanced initially - most importantly what kind of surface is there BEHIND the yews. Whatever that is you will be looking at that surface - probably just rough concrete - full in the face for a long time while any replacement plants grow.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 3:08PM
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chester: so what you are suggesting is to keep the ends of the hedge green and take the middle down as far as i want to? that seems like a good approach. i would be inclined to take a few feet off of the front and perhaps keep much of the height.

i like the idea of training it vertically to obscure the porch, although i don't like it as a monolithic hedge, bringing back individual plant profiles would be nice.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 3:26PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

If you cut down the center be aware that the end plants remaining will be quite bare towards the center. And although you could probably get away with it now, the ideal time for hard pruning a yew is in March and light pruning in mid-July.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 7:36PM
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a little follow-up. i had someone come and remove the driveway side shrubs this spring. he was going to transplant them and see how they did, then maybe take the others. well, the transplants died, so he didn't want the other side.

so yesterday, me and two friends made short work of the remaining yews. amazing what you can do in an hour with a few strong guys, a couple of shovels, and a pick maddock.

so here is what i have now. you can see three winter gem boxwoods on the right side of the photo. those aren't going to stay there. i don't want to do another house mustache like i had before.

any ideas on where to go from here are welcome. i am thinking of an eskimo viburnum, but i'm just not sure yet. one challenge is that the walk on the right side of the house leaves only about 3 feet between the bottom of the porch and the pavement, whereas the other side is wide open to expand forward.

also, the house is perfectly symmetrical, and i don't want to put things out of balance too much, yet i want a fairly natural look. on top of this, the part of the yard to the right side of the sidewalk leading to the house, is under part to deep shade from the neighbor's maple.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 9:16AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

wheres the pic????

might want to start a new post about a new design.. rather than burying it in this topic ...


    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 12:18PM
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thanks for the advice ken. i moved this topic here.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 2:39PM
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