Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shrubs Aren't Meant To Be Cupcakes, Frisbees, or Pill Boxes

Aren't these shrubs beautiful?


Texas Sage 'Green Cloud' (Leucophyllum frutescens 'Green Cloud')

 
Thunder Cloud Sage (Leucophyllum candidum 'Thunder Cloud')


'Rio Bravo' Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Rio Bravo')

You would think that the beauty of these shrubs, in flower, would be enough for people to stop pruning them into absurd shapes, but sadly, this is not the case.  There is an epidemic of truly horrible pruning that affects not only Texas Sage (Leucophyllum species), but also Cassia (Senna species),  Fairy Duster (Calliandra species) and even Oleander.

I dedicated an entire post to the unfortunate shaping of many of these beautiful shrubs into 'cupcakes', which you can view here Read The Plant Label Or You Might End Up With Cupcakes.   I had not planned on creating a similar post, until last weekend when I was driving along, just minding my own business and I saw an entire line of shrubs pruned like this....


Okay, it should be rather obvious, but I will say it just the same, 
"Do not prune your shrubs into the shape of a 'frisbee'.

I kept driving and found even more examples of truly awful pruning.  Sadly, all within a 5 minute drive of my house.


I call this 'pill box' pruning.
These Texas Sage & Cassia shrubs were located across the street from the 'frisbee' shrubs.



An attempt at creating a 'sculpture'?
Texas Sage 'Green Cloud' (Leucophyllum frutescens 'Green Cloud')



 A second attempt at creating a sculpture?


I have no idea what they were trying to do with these Texas Sage, a sculpture of some sort?  Honestly, when I first saw them, words failed me....I just couldn't believe what I was seeing and believe me.... I have seen a lot of pruning disasters.

Now on to some of my favorite 'cupcake' examples....
  
    
An entire line of 'cupcakes'.
'White Cloud' Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens 'White Cloud') 


Do you think they use a 'level' to make the tops perfectly flat?
I honestly wouldn't put it past them.


You can see the dead area on the top, which is caused from this shrub being sheared repeatedly.

 

 This dead growth is caused by lack of sunlight.  Repeated shearing (hedge-trimming) keeps sunlight from reaching the interior of the shrub.  
As a result, branches begin to die.

Well, I had seen enough of really awful pruning and was on my way home and I drove down the street and saw this....
 

 Now if you look closely, you can see a light layer of gray-green leaves, which really don't begin to cover the ugly, dense branching that has been caused by years of repeated shearing.


I actually like topiary, but not when done to a Texas Sage.
Some people prune up their shrubs so that they can clean up the leaves underneath more easily.

Now, I am not against formal pruning, when performed on the right plants.  But, it is not attractive when done on flowering, desert plants and it is also unhealthy for the shrubs themselves and contributes to their early death in many cases.  Add to that the fact that it greatly increases your maintenance costs due to repeated pruning and having to replace them more frequently.

Now if you have shrubs that look like any of these pruning disasters, don't panic!  The solution is fairly simple and involves some severe pruning which should be done in late spring.  I will cover how to do this in a later post.



Now why would anyone want to remove the flower buds from your shrubs by shearing, 
when you can have flowers like this?


So for now, this is the end of my posting on horrible pruning.  Or not.....depending on what I see while I am driving down the street. Pin It

29 comments:

Nell Jean said...

I'm always amazed at the folks around here who prune their azaleas into geometric shapes in fall and then wonder why they have a few meager blossoms down inside the shrub while the rest of the world is fairyland, come spring.

Is it a genetic failing? Can they not SEE?

tina said...

Terrible things done to lovely shrubs. The first ones are most colorful!

Vickie's Michigan Garden (my backyard) said...

Those sages are really pretty. look so nice when they are not trimmed.
vickie

The Violet Fern said...

Oh how sad! I love shrubs that are left alone to grow naturally. But I also love the "limbed up" effect on some - like Viburnums and Acers. I was curious to know if any of these poor cupcakes, frisbees or pill boxes could be saved - will look forward to that next post.

Mary Delle said...

Great post! As you know I learn from your posts like this. I knew you would send me the right way on a fairy duster. Hurrah for your knowledge.

Nicole said...

LOL-I thought this trim into boxes that Germinatrix wrote about was just endemic to post European colonial countries, but these pic "take the cake". Really, from mexico to Thailand to the Caribbean hired gardeners seem to have been trained to trim any and everything (including trees) into boxes. Apparently since colonial times that's what the colonists thought gardens in the tropics should aspire to look like-formal topiary of Europe. Sometime people remark that my plants "need a good trimming" haha

Pam/Digging said...

Wow, that second picture is amazing--what color! I don't think we have that variety here in Austin, although many other types of cenizo do very well.

I agree, cupcake cenizos are just not right.

James Missier said...

probably you should make copies of information about this plant & put it in their post boxes and include your blog detail for comments.

Maybe, just maybe - they all are ignorant about the plant & someone like you need to tell them about it.
Im sure they will be very grateful for saving their plants.

Carol said...

I completely concur ... what are people thinking of... your beautiful photos show so clearly that the natural way is stunning. Carol

Janet said...

I love the bloom on the Thunder Cloud sage! Proper pruning ....maybe these people are striving to be the next Dr. Seuss?

Deborah Elliott said...

Improper pruning is one of my pet peeves also. Here in Alabama I sometimes see azaleas, which should be allowed to grow naturally in a woodland setting, pruned into some of the same shapes as the unfortunate Texas sage. This is often done at the wrong time as well so that most of the spring blooms are removed. How sad. Thanks for your great post.

Rosey Pollen said...

Ughh. Those were hideously pruned. You are such a crusader for proper pruning. Thanks
Rosey

Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ said...

I think you should continue writing and showing examples of poor pruning of desert shrubs and trees. It will make people more aware. Unfortunately many people do not trim the shrubs themselves and there is a language barrier with the people who do. It can be hard to find someone to do it correctly. I don't blame the landscapers because many people, from other parts of the country originally, expect their shrubs to look like cupcakes and pill boxes. At least you are educating people on how desert plants need to be trimmed, but being able to communicate to the workers that often do the pruning is a difficult step in the process.

Kiki said...

Yay..that was fun! I want some thunder cloud sage! It is mega gorgeous! Great photos..fabulous post and I love the title too!! Very creative!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

They are just gorgeous in full bloom, but so sad pruned like that. Some of them look like little footrests or stools. I think some people hire "gardeners" that really don't know much about gardening and just like to use their pruners.

Rebecca @ In The Garden said...

Great post, the first pictures are so beautiful, I can't see pruninga shrub like that. On the other hand, I do appreciate an excellent pruning job (a la Edward Scissorhands), but the hack jobs seen around town are generally quite horrific. Mixed feelings about the topiaries you posted, they are much better than the cupcakes.

I tend to err on the side of not enouigh pruning, which results in somewhat leggy shrubs :(. I just like things to grow as they are.

Mary Delle said...

Noelle, Some of the other plants on my post about Arboretum desert plants were identified. Thanks so much for your help on plant identity.

Titania said...

You are so right with the cupcakes etc. they look so ugly and take away the graceful growth of a shrub. Firstly it is a lot of work and the result is horrible. Like you said there are some plants which lend themselves for topiary. I have never been enthusiastic about that sort of gardening. The flowering shrubs look splendid and it must hurt your sense of aesthetics when you see "topiary lookalikes"!

sweet bay said...

I don't think I've ever seen such ghastly pruning!

Those first pictures you showed were absolutely beautiful.

Msrobin said...

Thanks so much for ID'ing all the flowers I saw! Those poor Texas Sage plants made into cupcakes. I believe that Wabi Sabi does not only apply to faded flowers, but any kind of transient beauty. Go ahead and google it, it's quite interesting. I just know that I've often enjoyed a faded blossom almost as much as a fresh one.

janie said...

I cannot imagine why anyone would bring on the extra work of shearing the bushes, when they are most gorgeous left alone. Good post, Noelle.

catmint said...

some gardeners are control freaks, others, like us, are being-natural freaks. Whatever turns you on, I guess...

VW said...

I'm trying to keep an open mind - maybe some people like cupcake shrubs? Or maybe the efforts of horticulturalists to educate their neighbors will result in happier, prettier shrubs that have been pruned lightly if at all. Good luck!

Helen said...

Cutting off the flower buds is just plain crazy. And the bald patches left in some of these disasters should tell the cutters that they're not acting in the plant's (or their) best interests. Topiary foliage is one thing, but why bite the bough that blooms?

Christine said...

Ouch! That's why you're supposed to leave things to the professionals! This post reminds me of magazines that take pictures of fashion disasters and black out the victim's eyes!

Anonymous said...

Really it was a very very nice surprise to see such nice plants in that shape... H hope i can do the same in Saudi Arabia with the same desert plants in my landscape projects... thanks alot for that unique ideas of prunning
Eng Muhammad Rashid

Adeanaz said...

The Thunder Cloud Sage is stunning.

I really wonder what people are thinking when they prune. Can they not see how awful it looks? I have a neighbor that prunes EVERYTHING into squares. They have square bushes, even square lantana. Fortunately, nature rules and they lose those stupid shapes fast. Come on people, it's not really that hard to do this right!

Chris in Arid Austin said...

The comments miss the fact that the people
pruning these plants are by and large unskilled laborers who don't speak English. They can't really be expected to do a proper job.

Chris in Arid Austin said...

The comments miss the fact that the people
pruning these plants are by and large unskilled laborers who don't speak English. They can't really be expected to do a proper job.

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