The Shape of Things to Come --- pruning advice needed

onthebrinck(6 Central New Jersey)June 12, 2010

Every shrub in my new yard was trimmed over the last 5 years with nothing but a hedge trimmer. The first thing the nurseyman said when delivering some plants was that this was the Staten Island method of landscaping. I was stunned that he might have guessed I moved here from SI, but he explained that builders there supplied landscape material by shape --- round, cone, square and long rectangle (for hedges) and every plant had to be perfectly shaped, none free-form and homeowners maintained those shapes in perpetuity.

Before I make mistakes in the opposite direction and let everything grow 'wild', I thought I'd share some photos and get your opinions. The most prevalent shrub in these photos is boxwood. Is it healthy to keep them well hedge-trimmed, or is it better to seriously thin them out and only occasionally hand trim them to shape?

This first photo shows the front as you drive in. In the immediate foreground are white azaleas that I had to cut down about 2 feet to show the rounded tops of the boxwood behind them. Further to the left is a carefully trimmed evergreen bush, a manicured little row of boxwoods and a tall and perfectly boxed shaped holly against the wall of the house. MY OPINION: Only use 'renewal' pruning to keep the azaleas at a reasonable height and shape, but hedge trim and prune all the rest to maintain their shapes.

The other side of the front of the house features a boxwood hedge with a sloping front, and then onto laurels, azaleas and evergreen bushes. MY OPINION: let the laurels and azaleas grow free-form, but keep the boxwoods and evergreen bushes hedge-trimmed.

The next set are of the backyard with the ever-present wire frame reindeer ('she' who must be obeyed). The little boxwood are perfect oval shapes, but I think the hollies and larger boxes behind should grow free(r).

More Hollies and Boxwoods, but I'm concerned that the Abelia on the right of this photo has gotten too large.

And lastly, the Holly screen for the Driveway. You wouldn't believe the condition and shape of these hollies before I thinned them and let them grow out a bit. They were perfectly square, and the foliage was so small and dense I could barely get a (gloved) finger in there. MY OPINION: Prune them once annually after Christmas and try to get them into a somewhat pyramid shape (wider at the bottom, with maybe 3 feet of flat top).

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

lets start with some more facts ...

what is your goal ... once or twice a years out there with them????

are you willing to shear them once or twice.. for the rest of your life???

are you into gardening at all??? do you like to putter around..

do you have any proclivity to collecting plants ...

IMHO .... its a shearing nightmare, created by peeps who have no use for a garden.. other than to have some green around the house.. and who probably have hired help to do all the shearing ...

there is a whole world of dwarf and mini conifers that would make a wonderful garden ... without the need for all the work.. after you remove all the overgrown stuff ...

so.. where do YOU want to go with this plan ..

and how long do you think you will be there ... is changing it all worth it???


    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 2:36PM
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onthebrinck(6 Central New Jersey)

I can think of no better way to end out my days but taking care of this landscape! I will take great pride in nurturing each and every of the tiniest plants back into proper health! I view these plants as a symbol of my own life --- once abused and now old --- better that someone care for them and make them feel good again rather than be heartlessly discarded and left at the curb of life til the last spark of energy is exhausted.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 3:04PM
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I like the way you think onthebrinck!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 12:13AM
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Do what you want with them.
They are your shrubs and trees.
Try what you stated you want to do with the pruning and trimming. See if you like it.
Better to take not enough off, than too much.
I agree with you, I wouldn't mind them at all.
I love your landscape. Gorgeous mature trees and shrubs!
If you change your mind next year about the way you trimmed them and want to change it, then go ahead.
It's your garden, after all.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 12:11AM
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I like the way you think too! Of all the pics, I like the look of the first one the best - the mix of free-style (the azaleas you trimmed) and some of the more manicured shrubs flow nicely.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 9:34PM
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onthebrinck(6 Central New Jersey)

Thanks again ... Did I mention that I only discovered some of these shrubs after removing the yards of ground ivy that had overtaken the property. Many of the smaller boxwoods were just mounds underneath the ivy --- lol.

Anyway ... what's the best way to treat that row of holly near the cars. I read that it's best to trim them back around Christmas (since I've got friends who'd love the branches for wreaths). Do you think they can be safely trimmed to maybe half their width and 2/3 their height? That would mean there'd be almost no foliage since the inside of the bushes is quite leafless. I would be happy to 'severely' cut them back, and then let them have the year to grow out free-form, but for now they take up too much space and are getting unmanageable. I'm afraid if they are left totally alone they'd grow to the point of no return.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 6:56AM
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