Southwest landscapes are suffering from a widespread malady that I like to refer to as ‘poodle-pruning’.  


Beautiful, flowering shrubs are reduced to round ‘blobs’ by over-zealous homeowners and landscapers.  


For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you probably know that over-pruning flowering shrubs is a huge pet peeve of mine.


Over the years, I have seen many examples of over-pruning and in some rather interesting shapes.  However, last week I saw an example of pruning that caused me to stop my truck in the middle of a busy parking lot so I could take a photo.


I don’t think that I have EVER seen such precise pruning before.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the landscaper who did this had a ‘level’ with him to create these precise lines on these Texas Sage shrubs.

Of course, I have seen flowering shrubs pruned into other shapes in my travels around the Southwest…


Here is an example of perfectly formed ‘cupcake’ Texas Ranger shrubs.


I think these sage shrubs look like a lumpy cake, don’t you?


The owners of this property must be fans of modern art, which is what these sage shrubs remind me of.

But for me, I would rather see these flowering shrubs rescued from the overzealous pruning epidemic.


I think that they look much nicer when pruned no more then twice a year.

Now, is not the time to be pruning your Sage shrubs (Leucophyllum species).  Wait until the danger of frost is over, in late winter or early spring before pruning.

For more guidelines on pruning, click here.


I prune my ‘Rio Bravo’ sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’) shrubs once a year in March.

I then let them grow throughout the year and they help to screen out the bare wall.  I also get a fabulous floral display off an on throughout the warm months of the year.


I am certain that the landscaper who did this pruning is very proud of their work and I admire their attention to detail.

But, I would much rather see these flowering shrubs maintained correctly with just a minimum of pruning, wouldn’t you?


Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

4 replies
  1. RobinL
    RobinL says:

    Perhaps it will make you feel better if you find out that it is mostly a SW thing. I hardly ever see such pruning here, but then again, perhaps winter does our pruning for us!

    Reply
  2. dryheatblog
    dryheatblog says:

    Good points on when and what to not do / what to do…as always! Far better than excusing those who do such things – because the "client" told them to, how the "customer" is always right, good landscape people work for the owner and not their own "egos", etc…

    Thank you for your continued true professionalism and raising up the bar!

    Reply
  3. J K
    J K says:

    Just curious if there is less of this happening over time? And are HOA’s encouraging proper pruning techniques for a natural look? Or are they part of the problem?

    Reply

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