Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Trimming Topiaries

Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Trimming Topiaries

The #1 question I’m asked about a topiary – “Is it hard to maintain them?”  The answer is not at all IF you don’t let it grow too much before giving it a trim. 

Let’s talk Juniper topiaries – spirals, pom-poms, poodles and patio trees.  Since junipers grow so slowly they are perfect for topiary designs.  Under normal conditions 2 trimmings per year will keep a juniper topiary looking neat.

Examine your topiary

Look for the original shape of the topiary and decide how much of the new growth needs to be cut off.  Do you want to trim the plant back to its original size and remove all new growth?  Would you like to increase the plants size?  If so, you will cut off less of the new growth but follow the pattern of the original shape.

Get to trimming

Start trimming your Juniper topiary from the top down.  Until you become comfortable with your cutting ability start with a light trim in a small section.  “More is not better“ when learning to trim.  It’s better to trim less and cut a second time to attain the look you envision rather than to cut too much off. Once you’re satisfied then trim the same amount off the rest of the plant.

If you accidentally cut too much, don’t worry.  Trimming a plant causes new growth to occur so it will fill in quickly.  Just like a not so good haircut – it grows out and you fix it.

What to trim with

I prefer using a bypass hand pruner or handheld clipping shears – with sharp blades.  Hedge trimmers or hedge shears are difficult to maneuver and make it difficult to cut properly from all angles.

Other topiary plants (except pines)

The same techniques will work on other species of plants used as topiaries.  Boxwood, Ligustrum, Fig Ivy, Rosemary, Holly, etc.  Keep your trimmers sharp, follow the lines of the original topiary shape, start at the top and work your way down and you can successfully trim any topiary.

Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Abelias

Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Abelias

Abelia are known for their gracefully arching branches that are covered with flowers from June to October.  Pruning abelia plants isn’t a necessity – you can allow them to grow freely.  However, pruning will keep your plant compact and neat looking.  Although there are many different varieties available there is no difference in pruning techniques.

The best time to prune Abelias is in late winter or early spring.  Their flowers are formed on new growth (newly grown branches), so you don’t have to worry about losing blooms by cutting branches at the correct time of the year. 

If you have an older abelia that needs rejuvenating, you can prune it to the ground or prune 1/3 of the oldest stems to the ground each year before spring growth begins.  Choose the tallest branches on the interior of the plant and continue pruning stems in a random pattern to keep the shrub natural-looking.  This will promote new, compact growth.

How and What to Prune

– Prune dead stems to the ground.

– If only part of the branch is dead, cut below the dead wood and just above a lateral branch or bud.

– Long, leggy stems called water spouts (we prefer crazy arms) can be pruned to the ground any time.

– Prune the tips of all branches to maintain an even look.

– Use hand pruners for stems less than ½” in diameter and lopping shears for larger branches.

After the threat of frost has passed apply a good granular fertilizer to your abelia making sure to water it in thoroughly.  This will promote new growth for later spring and into summer.

If we have a scorcher of a summer and your abelia looks “tired” in August or September, prune the tips of all the branches.  Once the temps drop out of the high 90s you will begin to see new growth appear and a happy, healthy plant full of new blooms that will last until the first frost.