Give Your Shrubs a Good Haircut

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iStockphoto.com/Steve Snyder
Pruning a shrub is like giving it a good haircut.

There is nothing
worse than a bad haircut.

The one thing
you can’t do with a bad haircut is uncut it, so you just have to wait for it to
grow out before you can fix it. That’s how expert gardener Carol Chernega views
the art and science of pruning a shrub. If you trim it the wrong way, you’re
only compounding your problems, but learning the right way is not nearly as
difficult as going to cosmetology school.

 “Instead of giving your shrubs a bad haircut,
it’s actually very simple to give them a day at the spa, instead,” says
Chernega, producer and star of the DVD Pruning
Shrubs with Your Personal Gardener
. Her tips on pruning might not only
change your style, but help transform your garden and landscaping, as well.

 “For me, it would be a perfect world if
pruning shears came with instructions,” Chernega says. “Just because one has a
pair of scissors, it does not necessarily follow that you know how to give a
good haircut. And just because you have a pair of hedge trimmers does not mean
you know how to prune a shrub. Now, that’s not to say it takes a PhD in
horticulture to know how to prune. The basics are actually very easy to learn,
and applying some basic tips can really help you improve the look and health of
your garden 100 percent.”

Chernega’s tips
for basic pruning include:

? Know What
You’re Pruning – Before you make your first cut, look carefully at your garden
and identify what you’re going to be pruning. Use the Internet to identify them
if you don’t already know. You want to learn how the shrub should look so you
can prune it to maintain that natural shape.

? Cut Back to
the Branch – Always cut back to a bud or branching point. Never leave a long
stub. A stub will not only look ugly, but it will also invite insects and
disease that could cause long term problems.

? Cut the Dead
Weight First – Before you cut anything else, cut out the dead or broken
branches. Sometimes removing a dead branch will leave a big gap, so by doing
them first, you’ll be able to tailor the rest of your pruning to compensate for
that gap.

? Crossing Over
– After you eliminate the dead branches, next you want to target crossing
branches or branches that are likely to cross in the future. Once they start
rubbing against each other, they’ll leave a wound that will invite insects and
disease, so you want to eliminate that threat.

? Cut With the
Flow – Finally, cut out all branches that are not going in the natural
direction of the plant. This is good for the health of the plant, as well as
the look of your garden.

“After you master
the basics, you’ll discover that your garden will have a crisp, clean look to
it and your neighbors will not think your shrubs are having a bad hair day.”
Chernega says. “Your garden will grow in accordance with how you prune it and
you’ll do less work over time to maintain it. That means fewer hours of outdoor
labor, and more hours of enjoyment.”

Carol Chernega
has worked as a professional gardener since 1992. She’s been visiting England
for 15 years, fueling her passions for English gardens and literature. This led
to her being chosen as the first International Visitor for the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA). This
honor meant Carol worked for two months in Jane
Austen’s garden in Chawton,
England. During
that experience she learned why the English deserve their reputation as
excellent gardeners. She now incorporates that knowledge into her pruning
workshops. For more information, visit Chernega’s website.