Shearing vs. Selective Hand Pruning
Any time I write an article on pruning I’m tempted to go on a rant. There’s just so much to the topic. Between the endless list of plant types, numerous strategies and varying circumstances, one could probably dedicate an entire website to just pruning. And this would be for a good cause because more often than not plants are getting butchered. It’s a combination of a lack of knowledge and a rush to “get as much done as you can in the shortest amount of time”.
The discussion of shearing vs. selective hand pruning can be a heated one. The argument against shearing, and it is a valid one, is that it causes all the cut ends to produce lateral branching which results in a crowded mass of branches and foliage on the outside of the plant. This blocks most light and air circulation from the interior of the plant resulting in bare stems and an unhealthy condition. However, shearing does have its place particularly in the upkeep of formal gardens. Selective hand pruning is just that, “selective”. Each individual cut is strategic and combines health benefits for the plant as well as making it look good.
The approach I like to take in a situation where a formal look is desired is a combination of both techniques. In the picture above a skilled pruner from East Coast Landscape is selectively hand pruning these large American Boxwood to clean out any deadwood and thin the plant to allow some light and air into the plant’s interior. In addition, some light shearing on the ends of the foliage keeps the formal shape.
You can only imagine how many years it has taken for these Boxwood to reach this size. It is with proper pruning and other plant health care practices that these Boxwood will thrive for many more years.