Video | How Hand Pruning Your Shrubs is Faster, Cheaper, and Healthier than using a Hedge Trimmer!
Planning before you prune and being intentional about cuts means the results will last longer and cause less damage to your shrubs.
Are you thinking about pruning your shrubs? Well, don’t use the hedge trimmers. Instead, I would recommend that you prune by hand, it’s actually faster, it’s cheaper, and it’s healthier for your shrubs.
Hi, I’m Basil, and today we are talking about pruning shrubs. And I want to start by showing you why these hedge trimmers are not usually the best for pruning your shrubs. So come on over. I want to show you an azalea.
This is an azalea; it’s something we often see in the landscape here in Raleigh, North Carolina. And before I begin, I am putting on some safety equipment. I would recommend always using eye and ear protection if you are going to use hedge trimmers. Alright, let’s begin.
Ok, we finished sheering this azalea using hedge trimmers, and because of the nature of the hedge trimmers, we can’t really control what or where, or how we are cutting. So we have lots of branches that have been split, and have jagged ends, leaves that have been cut in half. Lots of damage on a micro scale for each of the individual branches. But the worst problem is we cut off many of the buds that actually regulate the growth of this plant. With those buds now gone, we are going to see an explosion of new growth. It’s the hydra effect; you cut off one head or, in this case, branch, and a bunch of new ones pop back. Now we will have to do a lot more maintenance, a lot more sheering with this shrub. So what I would like to do next is to use these Felcos and show you an alternative way to prune your shrubs.
One of the big advantages of Felcos is that we are able to make very clean cuts so we don’t have to worry about jagged edges, and split branches and leaves being cut in half. We are able to make cuts that will heal. The other big advantage with using hand pruners, like these Felcos, we can be very precise about where we make our cuts. That’s very important, and by being precise we are able to avoid the hydra effect. We won’t have this issue of cutting the buds, which regulate growth. This means our work will stay in effect for longer. This is good, this means less maintenance, less money, that sort of thing. So I’m gonna show you three specific cuts that we can use to hand prune this, or any other shrub.
Ok, so the first cut we are going to make is cutting a main branch to a side lateral. And this is the effect, we have reduced the length of the branch, and now these can sustain the growth of this branch and regulate the growth so that we don’t have the hydra effect.
So another cut that we will use is cutting these side laterals back to a main branch. This is a great example right here. We’ll just make that cut right here. Now here is the cool thing here is the main still has the buds necessary to control the growth of the remaining portions of the branch.
A third type of cut that we will often make is cutting a central branch out from between two or three or four others. And you want to get as deep as you can and you’re not always going to be able to get all the way down. Just the way that it is, it will still heal. But again, these side laterals will regulate the growth of the remaining portion of the branch.
So I have shown you these three basic cuts that we will be using. Now we are going to apply those cuts. And you can apply them in many different ways; it just depends on what your goals are. My goal for this azalea is to reduce the size. I kinda want to make it look like the other one that we sheered, although maybe not as rounded. I would like the bring the form in a little bit. So I’m going to be going after some of these longer branches. And I will be making those precise cuts like we’ve talked about.
That’s really all I wanted. I just sort of wanted to get that leggy growth off. And the interesting thing is we have basically the same effect we had on the other azalea. We had the leggy growth was gone, but the plant will react a lot more positively to way we have pruned here. There aren’t the jagged and cut branches, and we haven’t cut it in such a way that we are going to see an explosion of growth.
So let’s compare these two methodologies. On the one hand, the hedge trimming is faster on an individual basis. That said, you can actually get pretty fast at hand pruning. But we gotta look at the effect of hedge trimming. It creates the hydra effect, which means new sprouts pop up and you have to sheer it again and again. This happens all growing season. We have clients and sites where you have to prune and sheer 5 or 6 times per season. In comparison, when we are hand pruning, and being careful about where we make the cuts we might only have to prune once a year. Or even once every two years. So when we are looking at the different ways to prune over the long term this hand pruning option is cheaper, it’s faster, and let’s not forget it’s healthier for the plant.