Overgrown Shrubs / Bushes - How do you handle it?

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by Michael Ray, Mar 21, 2018.

  1. Michael Ray

    Michael Ray LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 428

    I've trimmed several shrubs so far this year that haven't been touched for years. Needless to say that quite a few of them have next to nothing underneath the outside layer of leaves but bare limbs. How do you handle this?

    I have another customer who had a "clump" of bushes about ten feet tall that had about five years worth of vines covering it. I removed the vines and...... again.... tons of bare areas in the middle. I was planning on tying some of the limbs closer to the middle to fill the area and train them back towards center mass.

    My concern is that customer don't get it..... they pay money to have their shrubs looking nice but since they waited years to do it the only solution is to make them look like ish for a year or two or leave them too big but shapely, if you're lucky.
  2. sjessen

    sjessen LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Knoxville, Tn
    Messages: 5,951

    Inform them ahead of time what the result will be. What they are experiencing is the unintended consequences of neglect. The good news is that the spring flush is right around the corner which will lessen the length of time before leaf coverage occurs.

    If they will be patient they will likely be rewarded with shrubs that are rejuvenated and much easier to keep trimmed.
    Walker56 likes this.
  3. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,854

    No tying or staking. Plants that are leggy get cut.
    13Razorbackfan likes this.
  4. 13Razorbackfan

    13Razorbackfan LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,632

    Man...so many variables...I always tell them they may not recover and either pull them or trim them back and wait to see. Usually you can break off some of the inner branches to see if they are dead
  5. Michael Ray

    Michael Ray LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 428

    Yeah on the ones today they did have some dead branches so I broke those off but there is new growth on the ends. It's basically just because the inside of the bushes haven't see daylight in years.
  6. 13Razorbackfan

    13Razorbackfan LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,632

    I tell folks in this situation, which I had one today, I can cut everything back but can't guarantee what parts will live and what won't and may take a few seasons to prune back into a certain aesthetic shape. If it looks too far gone I simply suggest removal because it's throwing good $ after bad to trim and trim and the plant be far beyond repair. Just pay now to rip it out and plant something new.

    I had a lady a week or so ago in this same situation and told her exactly what I stated above. I told her she has these nice centerpiece trees that need trimmed with WAY too many hedges and various bushes planted around them. Let's rip out the ones that have been shaded for so long by the trees that they were half alive at best. Then let's leave the box woods and shape them and maybe plant a couple knockout roses at the very front and put in a few yards of suede brown mulch. Sometimes less really makes things pop and actually makes the house look larger.

    The lady I quoted today was opposed to the above idea. She's old and set in her ways and didn't want to rip out 10' half alive shrubs. Just "kind of clean them up she says"...well I quoted her high because this is a person who has planted each one of these plants over the course of 50 years and she maintained them until she couldn't. So now she calls me to come in and expect me to return it to its former glory. Well sorry but those plants have been neglected too long. I will do as you ask but know that I can't guarantee what will live and what won't.

    I tell my older customers as they continue to age to STOP planting and start looking for easier maintenance. I have a sweet 95 year old lady that I mow her lawn but she can't maintain the 250 various plants and hedges she's planted over the years. She has her grandson do them now because she can't afford to pay me to do the maintenance. She is lucky in her case she had someone to help her.
  7. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,854

    Glad it is your customers themselves that do the overplanting. I get to call tree trimmers in to clear yards of palm trees because those do not belong on 5000 sq ft lots. The smaller plants are normally not overplanted. I can thank DW landscapers for the mess with the palm trees. They probably charged an arm and a leg to cram all of that crap in. Thing is, tree trimmers charge an arm and a leg to then cut it all down then take it away.
    13Razorbackfan likes this.
  8. Todd73

    Todd73 LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Florida
    Messages: 2,583

    I have some customers in new construction developments. I’m absolutely amazed at the overplanting by the builders done at these houses. They’re jammed in on tiny lots as it is, then they run shrubs completely around the houses and plant palms everywhere. One customer had me quote her on hedge trimming. I think she nearly fell over at the price. I told her the builder didn’t do her any favors by planting all this. The landscaping looks all pretty, they buy the house, then get hit with a big dose of reality with either the amount of their own time it takes to maintain or the cost to have someone else do it.
  9. Patriot Services

    Patriot Services LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,848

    Prune from within. Cut branches not just outer growth. A heavy dose of N will help with fill in. We get this a lot with the people that think bushes will live forever hacked into balls, cubes, flat topped. You can't lop off 2ft of growth and not expect a stick pile.
    Greencuts518 and 13Razorbackfan like this.
  10. 13Razorbackfan

    13Razorbackfan LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,632

    Exactly!!! I try to talk people into hand pruning what needs to be done and they all respond "just take the hedge trimmers to them". The cost difference is all that matters to them.

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