Landscaping: It’s not death by a thousand cuts

Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears every other week during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.

By Jennaye Derge

I am a landscaper. For some reason, people glorify this particular occupation.

“Oh, that must be nice! You get to work out in the sun!” Which is true, I “get” to work in the sun for 40 hours a week, developing more tan lines than anyone should ever have. Really, what these people are romanticizing about is the same stuff that your partner slaps on the “honey-do list” just as you’re dreaming about that unopened beer in the fridge.

It is yard work, glorified.

At a previous landscape job, making a landscape “look good” apparently meant making shrubs round – the rounder the better. This entailed pruning them constantly, no matter what season. But those particular wooded shrubs never looked very happy and since then, I have concluded it was death by pruning.

So at what point do aesthetics and health coincide? When it comes to pruning, this can be quite challenging. There are many reasons for pruning – promoting new growth, encouraging flowering, developing structure, allowing increased airflow and for shape. Pruning encourages growth where the shrub is cut, but can also remove the newer wood where new blossoms could otherwise form.

So every time my Edward Scissorhands made a shrub round, only those outer edges of the plant were encouraged to grow and the chance for flowering shrubs to actually develop flowers was greatly reduced. Additionally, the more I took off the bottom, the less sun and water was directed toward that base part of the plant. So what was left? A lot of area on the shrub that was not getting sun and a lot of dead wood left behind.

So, before your backyard is a landscape full of bowling balls, consider the health of a pruned shrub, and then sit back with your beer and enjoy the life of a landscaper.

Jennaye Derge is a 2012 Colorado Master Gardener graduate. She lives in La Plata County.