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Southeast Gardening: Prune Shrubs for an Artistic Look

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Convert a blob of a shrub into a sculptural beauty for year-round interest. Here’s how our Southeast region contributor did it.

pruning closeup

By Glenn DiNella

using loppers to prune shrub

Is there a statuesque beauty hiding beneath that big blob of a plant in your yard? Often we keep pruning shrubs to keep them full and contained, but over the years they somehow turn into oversize gumdrops—just “filler plants” with no personality.

I’m not saying pruning works with every shrub. But you can limb up some large shrubs—such as holly, crape myrtle, azalea, rhododendron, laurel, camellia, anise, juniper, and loropetalum—to create small, graceful, multitrunk trees. Think of it as releasing their inner beauty.

limbed-up shrubs

Keep in mind that many plants, especially well-established ones, are tougher than you give them credit for. You probably aren’t going to kill them, even with aggressive pruning. If they die, think of it as an opportunity to try a new plant.

Loropetalum is a pretty fast grower. Left unsheared for several years, it can grow into an indistinguishable blob, like the one by this foundation. This spring I decided to do something about it. Starting at ground level I began cutting any branches growing laterally. I cut close to the trunk and didn’t leave any stubs. That enabled the surrounding collar tissue to seal over the wound, and hopefully not produce more shoots needing pruning.

Leaving the three to seven main vertically growing trunks, I worked my way up to about chest height. I used a pruning saw on branches 1 inch thick or larger, loppers on branches measuring ½-1 inch, and handheld pruners on twigs smaller than ½ inch diameter.

Now instead of having a great big, dark, menacing blob greeting arriving guests, I have a statuesque beauty out front.

With the proper garden tools by your side, you need not fear the blob in your yard.