This Is A Pruning Mistake

This holly has been incorrectly pruned to reduce its size.

This holly was on the other side of the door and was similar to the one before it was pruned.

Pruning can be beautiful or a disaster. The two hollies above were a somewhat matched pair. The unpruned holly has a lot of style and character. The pruned holly on the other hand, looks like a typical pruned box and is ugly for this space. Looking at the unpruned holly, let’s think about what could be done to maintain its character while at the same time controlling its size. While the holly might be too tall for the space, I would simply look at the tip top and see if there is any way I can remove a branch or two deep in the plant to lower its height, while at the same time making sure the plant does not look like you have topped it. Try to keep its natural shape at all times. I think that if I would go to the branches close to the structure and again cut those branches back to their point of origin, you would reduce the size of the holly without destroying its natural growth habit that is desired in this space. By doing these simple pruning chores you can be effective in reducing the size of the holly without it looking like a pruned leaning forward box. It is no question that now is the time to do major pruning on evergreens, especially if they have overgrown their space. Remember, make the cuts deep into the plant (generally back to the point of origin) and do not shear them. I always start with taking off a minimal amount because that way, if I need to cut more I have not made such a mistake that I have ruined the look of the plant. Also if you are reducing the size, taking crossed or rubbing branches first is a good idea and finish with those that you are only cutting to create the desired shape of the shrub.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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