you guys do it?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by jasonlandscape, Jan 15, 2008.

  1. jasonlandscape

    jasonlandscape LawnSite Member
    from Georgia
    Messages: 124

    hey i know everyone has a certain way of prunning shrubs and i know there is a correct way too.

    i just wanted to see how all of you guys like to prune.

    if i can, i won't touch gas shears except for compact hollys and shrubs alike
    and when i do use shears i do a mushroom head....wider on the bottom

    i like to hand prune everything else with my felco's

    In my opinion if done right from the start its faster, nicer, more natural looking, and less messy.
    oh yeah, also less chance for fungus or disease
  2. jasonlandscape

    jasonlandscape LawnSite Member
    from Georgia
    Messages: 124

    whoops maybe wrong forum
  3. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    Depends on the shrub. For privets and boxwoods, I'll use the gas trimmer, but then get out the hand pruners. The apical stem once cut will not grow. that creates new growth just under where the apical stem was cut. That often results in a dense canopy which looks nice.... for a while. The problem is that that dense outer canopy restricts both air circulation and sunlight from penetrating it. All new growth then occurs at the canopy, and none underneath.

    I'll take out the hand shears and make openings in the canopy, sort of like windows, or skylights. That will promote some new growth under the canopy, as some sunlight and air circulation will penetrate the shrub and will help prevent bare spots later on as that new growth will fill in with a consequent outer canopy trimming.

    This is what I do with any plants that have reached the desired hieght and width for it's location. If you don't prune like this, eventually one of two things will happen: The shrub gets too large for it's location, blocking walkways and windows, or with a heavy pruning, will have bare spots which take time to fill back in, if at all.

    These "openings" won't be obvious from a few feet away, if done correctly. Few LCO's could be bothered to spend the time, but I do it. It works on some cedars as well. Holly's tend to manage themselves pretty well.

    I like more natural border shrubs, like Nellie Stevens Holly as opposed to privets and the like. Much more natural looking, but some people do like that stone wall look privets can achieve. I don't think I've ever seen a mature privet that wasn't invading space it shouldn't, like a driveway. It will take two years of hand pruning to generate enough under canopy growth to give it a good cut back without horrible bare spots. These aren't forsythias that will fill in within a growing season. My 2 cents.
  4. jasonlandscape

    jasonlandscape LawnSite Member
    from Georgia
    Messages: 124

    this would also be called deep prunning right?
    also by shapping the shrub like a mushrom head allows for sunlight and rain to get to the bottom of the shrub

    if you hand prune the majority of the shrubs you will not have to prune them as much...
    when you gas shear shrubs you will get new growth within a week or 2 and then the shrubs have sprouts everywhere.
  5. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720

    I fall right in step with Whitey4 when it comes to pruning.

    I had a partner up until 1997 that handled a mowing and trimming division, but he had personal issues to deal with, and we sold that part of the company and I went solo from there...

    So thankfully I don't ever have to look at the work-of-the-devil 2-cycle hedge shears in the shop again ! :)
    And the only thing I own manual shears for are for tipping back a boxwood hedge occasionally in my own yard.

    Jason...the shrubs don't have to be a "mushroom" shape so much as you make sure you don't prune the bottom of the shrub deeper than the top, making it 'oblong' at the top and robbing the bottom of the plant of light.

    What Whitey4 , I , and a few others still do is unfortunately a lost art to many, in this day and age of " interchangeable plants ", cheap south-of-the-border labor, etc...

    I've traveled to Europe with my family in the past, and I've noticed specimen shrubs and hedges, both deciduous and evergreen, many of which have been 'relevant' for many decades, if not hundreds of years!
    Particularly in England... :)

    It was obvious when I looked closely at them...that they're all meticulously pruned 'internally' to allow for the self-perpetuation of the help add the needed character to complement whatever old-style building, Tudor, etc...
  6. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    Marcos and I are definitely on the same page. Ever see those mazes on English estates that use hedges? Like the maze they put mice into? Those hedges are as old as the hills. I do work at the Planting Fields Arboretum, a old gold coast estate (from the rum running days on Long Island). This technique is how they keep 100 year old shrubs looking good, without bare spots.

    Definitely do NOT cut the lower branches. They get the least sunlight, and are the hardest to get to fill back in after a pruning. The top of the shrub can take the heaviest pruning, since that is where most of the sunlight is, that is where the plant will push most of it's nutrients and generate most new growth.

    If a shrub has been pruned too heavilly, it's the bottom and the sides that are slowest to fill in, and the bottom on the north side may never recover from an overly aggressive pruning. Be real gentle on the north facing side of the plant. The southern exposure will bounce back much more quickly. The western exposure will fill in faster than the eastern exposure too, if all else is equal and the hedge is not in any shade.

    This is a little tricky.... do it at your own risk for an overgrown hedge. Look down at the top of it. Cut the apical (main) branches off about 12" below the canopy. Do this ONLY where it cannot be visable. You dont want it to look like it's been pruned or obviously cut from looking at the sides of the hedge. Sort of like making a bowl out of the top of a square hedge. You can't tell it's there from looking at it from the ground.

    This will help stimulate new foliage growth around the sides and somewhat towards the bottom. It will be easier for the plant to generate new growth from smaller branches that have not been cut in those areas, on the sides and on the bottom. That is one way to try and get bare spots to fill back in. Here's the catch: You have to know exactly when such a radical cutback can be done. That depends on the type of shrub and the zone you are in. That is the tricky part. It can be anywhere from late winter to late spring, depending on the variety. This "bowl trimming" will fill back in, but until it does, new growth will go to the top of the hedge where it hasn't been cut back, and along the sides. You would likely have to come back in a couple of weeks to a month to trim the outer uppermost branches that are the "outside" of the bowl.... they will try and take off. A feeding at this time is a good idea too.

    It may sound difficult, but when you can bring a bad looking hedge back to a healthy appearance, people are thrilled. It takes time and good technique, but it will get you some referrals when you can pull it off.

    PS: Remember that even evergreens will lose their leaves. The 3 year old growth will drop and be replaced by new growth. Keep that in mind when pruning. Tell the plant WHERE YOU want the new growth to be.
  7. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720


    When we moved here in 2000 there were three burning bush along side the north end of our wood deck, sort of out in the grass set in a ' V ' pattern.
    It was obvious to me that they originally were placed there, by some wise person, for the purpose of creating a summertime privacy screen.

    Well, the previous owner definitely didn't catch on to that concept !:laugh:
    We moved in just before Christmas 2000, and the three somewhat older euonymus were just "little mangled balls" struggling to survive the BUTCHERY of the past !!! :cry:

    I didn't do drastic measures all at once...just some key internal cuts here and there to spur in some sunlight, that 1st winter.
    And I worked to "de-ball" them :laugh: gradually the same way, by pruning carefully around the interior after the leaves dropped, not too much in one given area at once, to prompt the bottom of the plants to throw out some decent branching.
    Over time I got more and more aggressive with my internal pruning, making proper cuts at the collars as if I were pruning a tree, but in obviously a much more difficult-to-reach situation.

    This privacy screen is NICE now...:)
    They're now about 6.5 - 7 feet high; I just got finished with the winter work on them last weekend.
    I probably invest 30-45 min per bush per year...all during the winter.
    And I do absolutely no pruning to them during the growing season.
  8. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    They must look awesome when they turn in the fall! They sort of remind me of forsythia. Not real interesting unless they are in their color season. When they do sport color, they knock your socks off! 7 feet tall.... impressive.

    I am not a good businessman. Yeah, I get a bit more than the mow and blow guys, but not near enough for doing things like this type of pruning. Or the scouting I do on my properties. But.... while I could make more $, I like what I do, knowing I could probably increase my billings by 50% if I didn't treat customer's properties the way I would my own. At some point, and likely after this year, I think I will raise my prices. With ferts the way they are, this is not a good time for a service price increase. I just can't bring myself to lower my standards. I ... seem to have gone on a ... ramble!

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