I took a few weeks off to watch spring training baseball, a trip to the southwest that was supposed to be relaxing and invigorating. But though the sunsets were gorgeous and the people friendly, my agitation grew.
To a plant person like me, all was not right with the boys of summer when right outside their door one of the worst abuses in plantdom was occurring. The shrubbery was under attack, and despite my best efforts to stop passersby with cries of “Oh wow – what is THAT?” and “What is WRONG with this scene?” no one threw more than a pitying glance my way.
These plants were practically bald, and as I looked further along the streets and shopping malls, it dawned on me that the people around me weren’t alarmed because this is how all of the plants looked – sheared to within an inch of their lives.
Why, I wondered, would anyone prune a plant this hard? Did they get a new hedge clipper and go nuts trying it out? Some of the shrubs along the roadway looked like the pruning was a drive-by job, with one person with a buzz-saw leaning out from the truck to chop the plants as they drove down the street.
Worried that they might not have a plant expert in the state, I searched on line, but the Arizona Master Gardener manual popped up and is an excellent resource for guidelines on how to properly prune a shrub. Thinning, they caution, is not done with hedge shears.
They offer advice and helpful diagrams on how to thin the shrub by cutting back some of the branches to a younger side shoot. This opens up the interior of the plant to sunlight and promotes better growth. If the plant needs renewal they offer tips on removing few older branches to at or near the ground over a few years, letting the younger stems take charge.
Never do they mention such severe haircuts that left some plants begging to borrow a hat. Check this great resource out for yourselves before you pick up those pruners.