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Have you ever seen shrubs that have been planted too closely together?

 
At first glance, it looks like the new plants in the landscape above fit just fine into this area.
 
But, what if I told you that those small shrubs grow 6 feet high and wide at maturity?
 

 

As they grow, out come the hedge trimmers and over pruned, ugly shrubs are the result.
 
Unfortunately, this is a problem that has reached almost epidemic proportions in areas throughout the Southwest.
 
Why else would people prune beautiful flowering shrubs into something that resembles anonymous, green blobs?
 
The good news is that you can avoid this from happening in your landscape.  Even if you currently have overcrowded shrubs, you can solve the problem.
 
I recently wrote an article for Houzz.com on how to avoid overcrowded and the resulting overpruning…
 
I hope that you find this article helpful – I’d love to hear your thoughts.
 
 

I have a confession to make…


Sometimes I am a lazy gardener.  Are you shocked?  Will this revelation cause you to stop reading my blog?  


In my defense, I must say that life gets rather busy and at the end of a long day, I forgo the opportunity to do some needed garden maintenance.


However, my reluctance to perform needed maintenance has a rather beautiful benefit…


My herbs begin to flower in the absence of harvesting their leaves.

Now, I like growing herbs and harvest them so that I can use them both dried and fresh.

But, there are times that I don’t get out to harvest the leaves.  When herbs are allowed to grow without harvesting the leaves – they begin to flower.

My sage (above) has beautiful purple flowers, don’t you think?


Now, my green and purple basil plants are beginning to flower as well.

Herbs are best harvested before the begin to flower for the best taste.

So, what do you do when they start to flower?  Well, you have two options…

– You could let them flower for a couple of weeks and enjoy their beauty.

– Or you could prune them back severely and let the leaves grow back so you can harvest them.

What do you think I should do?

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….



I went out in my garden today and saw these flowers growing.
 
While they are pretty, I was NOT happy to see them.
 
Why?
 
Maybe this next photo will give you a clue…
 
 
Can you tell why I’m not happy about these flowers yet?
 
Maybe this photo will tell you why…
 
 
It is my broccoli that is flowering.
 
The goal of growing broccoli in my vegetable garden is to eat it before it flowers.
 
Thankfully, there is plenty of broccoli that isn’t flowering yet.
 
I don’t claim to have the ‘perfect’ garden and I sometimes don’t get out there much as I’d like, but it really doesn’t bother me that some of my broccoli is flowering.
 
You know why?
 
Because I still have a refrigerator filled with fresh broccoli (that hasn’t flowered yet), some still in the garden and a little vase filled with pretty, little, yellow flowers 🙂