Plant Well So You Can Prune Less


Why prune a hedge to keep it under control when you can plant an informal hedge using a shrub with naturally compact growth? Photo:

The need some gardeners seem to feel to prune everything in sight is difficult for the laidback gardener to understand. Why not just plant things and let them grow? Yet many gardeners spend much of their summer pruning: hedges, shrubs, trees, conifers, and so on.

Wouldn’t it be easier to choose plants of the right dimensions for the space you want to fill and thus avoid pruning entirely? And choosing the right plants should be a snap to do, as these days most plant labels already indicate the plant’s eventual dimensions.


These shrubs have far outgrown any usefulness. The best thing to do would be to tear them out and plant lower-growing varieties that won’t block the home’s windows. Photo:

For example, if you are looking for shrubs and conifers for a foundation planting just below your living room window and it’s located 5 feet (1.5 m) from the ground, isn’t it more logical to choose a shrub that will reach 5 feet (1.5 m) or less in height and therefore never block the view rather than a 9 foot (3 m) shrub that very quickly forces you to prune it annually just so you can see outside?

Or in a rock garden 6 feet (2 m) wide, why plant a creeping juniper that will reach 12 feet (4 m) in diameter?

I’m not saying that you can entirely avoid pruning just by selecting plants of appropriate dimensions (there can be dead or damaged branches to remove, for example), but by taking the plant’s eventual size into consideration as well as the factors you usually look at when you choose a plant (whether it needs sun or shade, it soil preferences, its hardiness zone, etc.), you’ll have come a long way to bringing the pruning needs in your yard to an absolute minimum.20170709A


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