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Last month, I asked you on my Facebook page, which plant I should profile in my upcoming article for Houzz.com  (Every month, I write a plant profile on plants that grow well in the Southwest.)  


My blogger friend, Becky, who lives in Tucson, mentioned that Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisoides) would be a good choice.


Surprisingly, I hadn’t thought to feature this great shrub considering that I have used it in landscape designs in the past.



In 2012, I was asked to design the plantings along a street in Rio Verde, AZ.

In addition to succulents, trees, perennials and other shrubs – Feathery Cassia was one shrub that I wanted to be sure to include due to its low-maintenance, drought-tolerance and gorgeous winter color.


In just over a year, Feathery Cassia has a good start, but will grow much larger.

I love pairing this shrub with Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) with its red flowers.


I like this shrub so much, that I have planted 5 of them along in my own garden, along a long block wall.  I can’t wait until they start growing.

If you want to learn more about Feathery Cassia, like why do people call it ‘feathery’ or learn about the surprise the flowers harbor – check out my latest article from Houzz…

Architecture, interior design, and more ∨

Before you throw your next party, browse a wide selection of bar ware, bar glassware and serving platters.
For small bathroom ideas, browse photos of space-saving bathroom cabinetry and clever hidden mirrored medicine cabinets.


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I hope you are all enjoying your week.  I am getting ready to head to Florida next week in order to participate in a fun gardening project.  I’ll let you know more soon…

Many of us are familiar with how over-pruning can take away much of the beauty of flowering shrubs, in addition to contributing to their early death.


But, have you ever wondered what they look on the inside?


I found this ‘ugly’ example alongside the drive-thru of Taco Bell.


It isn’t pretty, is it?

The side of the ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage was sheared away because it was growing over the curb.  
The result of planting the shrub too close.

You can see the thin layer of leaves that cover the shrub and the dark, interior where sunlight seldom reaches.  

If this resembles your shrub(s), you can fix them.

Below, is a link to a previous blog post of how to do ‘renewal pruning’ on your desert flowering shrubs and what they look like as they grow back.


You can still do this in April for your Cassia (Senna species), Sage (Leucophyllum species), Ruellia, Fairy Duster (Calliandra species) and Lantana shrubs.

My inbox has been filled lately with pruning questions.  Specifically, how to prune back overgrown flowering shrubs.



Chihuahuan Sage (Leucophyllum laevigatum)
You may be wondering why you need to severely prune back overgrown shrubs?

Well, as you can see from the photo, above – as a shrub’s branches age, they produce fewer leaves and flowers.  As time passes – these branches die, which leave ugly, bare areas.

Here are a few more examples of overgrown shrubs that need to be severely pruned back…

‘Thunder Cloud’ Texas Sage (Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’)

‘White Cloud’ Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘White Cloud’)
You may think the formally pruned sage shrubs in the photo above, look okay besides being a bit on the large side.  

But, what you don’t see is the large amount of dead branches inside.  In reality, these shrubs are covered in a very thin layer of growth.

Here is an example of old Cassia (Senna nemophila) shrubs that have only been pruned formally.  You can see that there are more dead areas then live growth.

So, how do you go about severely pruning old, overgrown shrubs back?

First of all – don’t do this during cooler months because it will take your shrubs a very long time to grow back.  In addition, it can make frost-tender shrubs more susceptible to frost damage.  Wait until spring for pruning back summer-flowering shrubs such as bougainvillea, sage, oleanders, etc.

You need a good pair of loppers and sometimes a pruning saw and you are ready to go.  Simply prune your shrub back until there is about 1 – 2 ft left (some people go back until there is only 6″ left).

Hedge trimmers can help if you use them to remove the outer part of the shrub and then you can get your loppers inside to prune off larger branches toward the base.

Below, are photos of ‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’) shrubs that started out overgrown, were pruned back severely, and grew back.

Overgrown shrubs.

Pruned back to 1 ft.

This is the ugly stage.  But you need to go through this ‘awkward’ stage to achieve beautiful, healthy shrubs.

I promise that it doesn’t last long…

New growth appears 3 weeks later
8 weeks after pruning.

12 weeks after severe pruning.
 You can see that the severe pruning caused the shrub to grow young, new branches that produce beautiful green growth and flowers.


**Although severe renewal pruning keeps your shrubs healthy and attractive – there are a few cases when an old, overgrown shrub won’t grow back.  It is doubtful that the Cassia shrubs, above, will survive for long either with or without severe pruning). 

This usually indicates that the shrub has declined too much and would not have survived for long even without pruning.  If this happens, you are better off replacing your shrub.**

Hand pruners, pruning saw and loppers
A good guideline for severely pruning your shrubs is to do this every 3 years or so.  Of course, you can do this every year if you like to help keep your shrubs from outgrowing their space.

I hope that this helps to answer some of your questions.

For more information on pruning, including how to prune away frost-damaged growth, you can read some or all of these previous posts….



Many people tell me that they are tired of their boring, round green shrubs.  Often, they are surprised when I tell them that those ‘boring’ green balls would actually flower if given a chance.


So, how do you take those boring green balls and turn them into beautiful, flowering shrubs?  


‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage shrubs


The first step is to rejuvenate your green ‘balls’ by severely pruning them back.  

Now I warn you, this is an ugly stage.  Your shrubs will look like a bunch of sticks poking out of the ground.
Red Bird-of-Paradise shrubs, newly pruned.
 This is best done at certain times of the year, depending on what type of flowering shrub you have.  For example, if you severely prune summer-flowering shrubs back in December, you will have to wait a long time for them to leaf out, once the weather warms.

I pruned the ‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’) shrub below in March and by early April, it had already begun to produce new branches.
‘Rio Bravo’ Sage, 1 month after severely pruning.
So, when should you prune your shrubs?

Here is a list of some of the most common shrubs in the low desert and when they should be pruned.
(If you live in the high desert, you can adjust the timing by a month or so later.)
Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea species) – March
Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) – December
Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) – March
Cassia species (Senna species) – May (once flowering is finished)
Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) – June
Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) – May
Texas Sage (Leucophyllum species) – March
Oleander (Nerium oleander) – May or June
Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) – March
Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) – March or April

If you look closely at the list above, you can see that in most cases these shrubs are either pruned once they have finished flowering OR just after the danger of frost is over in the spring.

The reward for your efforts is a beautiful, flowering shrub like the ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage, below.

‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage

If your shrub is getting a bit large later in the year, you can prune it using hand pruners and removing no more then 1/3 of the growth.  Just be careful not to use hedge-trimmers.

So, do you have to prune your flowering shrubs severely every year?  
Absolutely not.  

As long as your shrub is attractive and not outgrowing its space, you can save severe pruning for every 3 years or so, which will remove older branches and cause new ones to grow in their place.  This is what I do in my own garden.

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Now for those of you who really like the appearance of formally pruned shrubs….

Don’t worry – there is hope.  

There are some types of shrubs that do very well when formally pruned.

But, I’ll leave that for my next post 🙂
January is the slowest time of the year for blooms in the desert.  However, due to our year-round growing climate, there are still a lot of flowers to see…
   
 Bower Vine (Pandorea jasminoides)
My Valentine shrub (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is in full bloom.
One of my Mexican Bird-of-Paradise trees (Caesalpinia mexicana), happily blooming away…
Radiation Lantana ‘Desert Sunset’ is still blooming underneath my Dalbergia sissoo tree. 

The tree has protected it from frost damage.

The flowers are starting to peek out of the Silvery Cassia (Senna phyllodenia).
More blooms will soon follow from this Australian native.
 
One of the Geraniums in the Children’s Flower Garden. 
In case you are getting tired of the flowers in my garden or just want to see more colorful blooms, I thought I would also show you some of the flowers currently blooming at Double S Farms.
 
Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis) is a reliable year-round bloomer.

The flowers of the ‘New Gold Mound’ Lantana lighten in the winter, but are still beautiful.
I found this single flower on the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

I’m not sure if fruit counts as a bloom for GBBD, but just in case….

Kumquats reaching towards the sky.  
And lastly, a photo of a single rose from the Neglected, Overgrown, Nameless Rose just before I pruned it back.  I realize I did not take the photo on the 15th, but it would have still been there if I had not pruned the rose bush back over the weekend.  
I also wanted it to have one last opportunity to show off it’s flowers before the new flush of rose blooms come in March.
 

English Rose ‘Glamis Castle’

Thank you for joining me for January’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  Please visit May Dreams Gardens for more sites featuring Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.

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.