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Trimming old shrubs

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by David Haggerty, Jul 2, 2002.

  1. These shrubs are all close to 50 years old. On the big ones the canopy is only about an inch deep in places. Can anything be done to help them? Or should I tell the new owners to consider replacing them?

    timbertech shrubs.jpg
  2. 65hoss

    65hoss LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,360

    I would probably try to find a plant specialist in your area to look at them. I don't think you need to give up on them just yet. But 50 yr old plants need to be dealt with by someone that knows how to go about it without killing them.
  3. I've always been such a do-it-yourselfer that calling in a specialist hadn't crossed my mind. But now you've mentioned it, I know just the guy. He owns a nursery I've worked with before.

  4. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,969

    If they've been sheared for 40-50 years, just continue shearing them. Just have to be careful not to go too deep with trimmers. They won't look great after the shearing.

    Your situation here demonstrates the problem with shearing plants. They must be contained in size, but when you shear you will ruin the look of the plant, until you get some new growth. Because over many years of shearing, the depth of the green shell becomes very thin. This is because, in woody ornamentals, any cut causes new growth below the cut. So shearing a plant the same size year after year increases the density of growth just below the sheared size, and any growth inside the plant gets shaded out.

    Depending on the amount of sun, you can convert yews to pruned, rather than sheared, plants in 3 to 5 years, but it is very labor intensive. Hopefully your client would opt for replacement, and an intelligent replacement, not just all yews again. This entrance could be much more appealing using other plants. Of course, long term maintenance must be pruning the plants in the proper manner, instead of the hedge trimmer butchering.
  5. I guess I'm guilty as charged. It was me always shearing without proper pruning. But in my defense, the building was vacant for years and they would only approve minimal maintenance.
    Heck at one time they were even going to stop mowing the lawn! The guy in charge of buildings and grounds asked me why he should bother to keep the lawn mowed on a vacant building.
    They had the place for sale at that time. So I wrote him a note saying that I wasn't trying to make the place look like a million bucks, I was tryng to make it look like FIVE million bucks. (that was what they had it listed for) I kept my job mowing.

    Now business is picking up for the new owners. They just hired an additional 187 people. One was my jobless nephew! :blob1:
    It makes me think they might want to improve the landscape. I was wondering how much of the years of neglect was reversible.

    I'll probably try a combination of what you and Hoss mentioned. I'll continue to shear until they want something better, then call in a landscaper I worked with on another property.

    Thanks for your reply. It's probably not worth the effort and expense of trying to bring new life into these old taxus yews.

  6. Doc Pete

    Doc Pete LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,469

    I think you need to be cost effective. Most people will never pay for hand pruning and shearing is the standard alternative. FWIW, I brought back to life a 30 year old yew hedge, that I cut 2 feet off the sides with a chain saw. However, it took about 5 years for it to look presentable, but it's beautiful now.
    I'm pretty sure no one is gonna want to look at brown sticks for a few years, so let them decide if they want new shrubs or the sticks:p
  7. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,969

    How many times a year do you have to shear a privet hedge? 3 to 6 in our area. But pruning, I only do it once, and the client gets to enjoy the sweet smell of the flowers, which are usually ruined by shearing. Probably less, and surely no more, time involved in pruning here vs. shearing.

    Take the time to shear & clean up the mess 2 or 3 times a year, and proper pruning is almost always more cost effective. You are also greatly extending the use of the plant, because most sheared plants quickly become sticks with green hats. Some guys have their plants so well formed, that they just prune in the winter, and let plant grow naturally and pleasantly during the summer; 'course this usually requires some education of the customer. LOL

    Once took over a large property where everything had been sheared for years. Told client I would continue to shear rumdum yews along front of house, because they were in heavy shade. Third year, they asked me to please start pruning them also, because all the other plants gave such a relaxing atmosphere.
  8. agrostis palustris

    agrostis palustris Banned
    Posts: 117

    What kind of company is this? Lots of customer traffic, or no? If the customer doesn't mind looking at some brown for a while... why not just cut em almost to the ground and let them start as new?

  9. Yeah, I agree if you factor in the eventual replacement of the shrub due to repetitive shearing without any pruning.
    I'd like to have seen more pruning too, included with a regular shearing program.

    The shrubs in the picture must account for $175 of what I bill for trimming all of their shrubs. These are big old shrubs. They seem larger in person. The cone shaped one in the far corner must be 12' tall. The building's so big it makes the landscaping seem smaller by compairison. The building has about 5 acres under roof!

    I don't think I could include much pruning for what they've been willing to pay. But maybe as I mentioned before, with business improving, maybe they'll want the landscape in better shape.

    My biggest interest is the lawn. It's about 26 acres.

  10. Evan528

    Evan528 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,144

    You trim all those shrubs pictured for only 175 dollars? :eek: Trimming is hard work..... not everynody has the ability to even do a nice job , infact very few! Charge good for it!

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