It's the Plants, Darling

Speaking of Shrubs

After reading Michele's shrub posts yesterday and hearing Sydney Eddison plugging shrubs on the radio ("On Point", which also featured our Elizabeth) I have to weigh in because singing the praises of this important plant group is the centerpiece of my garden-coaching.  It seems I'm always either urging  people to add more of them or to prune the ones they already have – which I swear is the single most important, never-done gardening chore there is – or both.

So for further reading, check out my Five Shrubs that Fill up the Garden – that would be viburnum, weigela (pictured above), spirea, oakleaf hydrangea and hydrangea paniculata.  Fast-growers that make a huge difference in the garden while requiring almost no care. 

Then Time to Prune Cherry Laurels (and Azaleas, too) describes the renewal pruning that can turn overgrown, mispruned and pest-infested shrubs into healthier and far prettier versions of themselves.  I've used this technique on not just cherry laurels and azaleas but also viburnums, mock oranges, weigelas, a beautybush, hydrangeas and spireas. 

For more about pruning your shrubs, Google "prune boxwood" or whatever plant name applies, or check Lee Reich and Peter McHoy in print.  (I do both.)

Posted by on May 29, 2010 at 4:11 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
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7 responses to “Speaking of Shrubs”

  1. Chris Upton says:


    I couldn’t agree with you more about pruning. There are gardeners who seem to feel that it’s almost “immoral” in the same way that you occasionally hear the opinion that “it’s wrong to spay or neuter pets.” Wrong and wrong!

    Keep broadcasting the message!

  2. Tara Dillard says:

    Shrubs, groundcovers & trees are the bones of a landscape.

    Perennials, many dormant months each year, get me more landscape design work than (probably) any other reason.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  3. Eileen says:

    This isn’t a shrub, but I read recently that you should not let clematis vines grow taller than about 12 inches for the first 2 years. I’ve been eagerly watching our year old vines climb higher and higher and it about killed me to prune those down.

    Sigh. I suppose it’s for a greater good.

  4. Rosella says:

    Thanks for this information, Susan — unfortunately I pruned my schip laurels at the wrong time this year, because the heavy snowfalls had left them lying on the ground gasping. So — they got pruned so they could stand up, and they are now looking much better, with new growth all over. Next year I will prune at the proper time!

  5. susan harris says:

    Rosella, sometimes we prune when we have to. And cherry laurels I prune spring, summer or winter, anyway.

  6. sarahammocks says:

    what shrubs do you recommend for people who have deer? Hydrangeas are deer magnets. They also munch the bottlebrush blossoms on my dwarf fothergilla, new growth on spicebush, and forsythia (which I figure can take a little deer pruning). So far, they are staying away from my chokeberry, a gorgeous fall color shrub.

  7. susan harris says:

    Sara, I have oakleaf hydrangeas in the midst of my deer-infested woodland garden and they just walk by them on their way to the hostas. They then proceed into the sunny part of my garden because they’re attracted to all the clover – the only drawback to clover. The deer also walk by and leave intact my shrub roses, spireas, weigelas, and viburnums. Among my shrubs and trees, the only deer damage has been to conifers, from rubbing up against them.
    But then with deer sometimes it’s “go figure”.