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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.

Over Pruned Shrubs

Over Pruned Shrubs

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), the good news is that you can usually fix them.

Over Pruned Shrubs

Imagine going from the shrub on the left to the one on the right?

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

I teach you how in my popular online shrub pruning workshop where you’ll learn how to rejuvenate over-pruned shrubs and how to prune them the right way in the future.

Declare your landscape free of shrubs pruned into balls, cupcakes, and squares ๐Ÿ™‚

Over-Pruning Epidemic Hits Againโ€ฆ.

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

Chihuahuan Sage (Leucophyllum laevigatum)

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…

'White Cloud' Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens 'White 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 a large amount of dead branches inside.  In reality, these shrubs are covered in a very thin layer of growth.

overgrown shrubs

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 than 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 only about 1 – 2 ft 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

Overgrown shrubs.

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…

overgrown shrubs

New growth appears 3 weeks later

8 weeks after pruning

8 weeks after pruning.

12 weeks after severe 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.

overgrown shrubs

**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

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.

If you would like to learn more about how to prune shrubs the right way, I invite you to learn more about my popular online shrub pruning workshop.   

My family has a tradition of gathering together at Costco (of all places) for dinner once a month. (For those of you who don’t know what Costco is – it is a lot like Sam’s Club).

You see, we all love Costco and their pizza is pretty good.  So, my mother, sisters, brother and their families all gather together with mine at Costco.  We take up about 3 – 4 tables in the eating area and eat our pizza, hot dogs or chicken rolls.  What makes it even more fun is that we find that our families intermix with each other.  I often find myself eating with one of my sisters, my niece or one of my nephews.  My kids take the opportunity to sit with their cousins, aunts and uncles.

After eating dinner, we all go shopping.  Costco has lots of things that we like, but my big weakness is the book section.  I absolutely love to read….especially fiction.  So, I always budget a little money for spending on books.

As we pulled into the Costco parking lot, I noticed a bunch of shrubs planted too close together.  Unfortunately, a very common occurrence – especially in parking lots.

Bunch of shrubs

Bunch of shrubs

The landscapers prune these Texas sage shrubs into ‘cupcake’ shapes’ to keep them from growing into each other.

You would have a hard time telling that these are actually flowering shrubs, wouldn’t you?

In a nearby parking lot island, there were other crowded shrubs….

Bunch of shrubs

These Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisoides) have been planted very closely together and the landscapers are doing their best to keep them pruned so that they don’t touch each other.

The problem is, is that it is ugly and isn’t all that healthy for the shrubs.

So, here is my solution….

How about letting the shrubs grow together and form an informal, flowering hedge?

That would mean less maintenance and more attractive shrubs.

**If you have a similar problem, try letting your shrubs grow together.  You’ll appreciate the lower maintenance and your shrubs will actually flower.

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Last night, I made 6 dozen Snickerdoodles using one of my favorite recipes.  I got the recipe for my wedding shower almost 26 years ago.  They are very easy to make and taste delicious.

I’m going to a cookie exchange party today and I can’t wait to see what types of cookies I come home with.  If I can keep my husband and kids from eating the Snickerdoodles first ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here is my Snickerdoodle recipe:

1 cup softened butter

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon saltCream together the butter, sugar and eggs.

Add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and mix well.

Roll the cookie dough into small balls, about 3/4″ and then dip into cinnamon sugar.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 8- 10 minutes.

Makes 5 – 6 dozen.

I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do ๐Ÿ™‚

Modern Shrub Sculpture?