Rehabilitating overgrown shrubbery

One of the most common landscaping errors that people make is with the type of shrubbery that they plant close to their houses. When the shrubbery is planted, it is young and small. Unfortunately, shrubbery has this habit of growing and people discover that, when they attempt to look out their windows, all they see is vegetation. Most people would rather not see overgrown shrubbery when they are looking outside. Another reason for not wanting overgrown shrubbery is that houses tend to look unoccupied when the shrubbery and weeds are out of control. So they have two options:

  • rip out the offending shrubbery and start over or
  • prune the heck out of the out-of-control shrub and prevent it from achieving a new status as a tree
The garden that I tended today featured two overgrown shrubs behind the house belonging to my customer. She let me know that she got no air in her bedroom, even when she opened the window. As you can see from the picture above, you can’t even find the window. The shrub is definitely working on becoming a tree.

I got out my pruners and my loppers and began taming the magnificent beast that was attempting to be taller than the house.

After some enthusiastic pruning on my part, I saw a window!

Most of the excess growth on top of the shrub is gone, and I start shaping the shrub to make it look both in control and lovely. It is sort of like giving the shrubbery a good haircut.

And here we go… a nice sized shrub for the house. My customer will be able to see outside from her bedroom window and she will enjoy the fresh air when she chooses to open the window.
Generally, I find that these shrubs need this “extreme makeover” once a year. It is kind of labor intensive but, at least, these shrubs don’t need constant pruning like some of the smaller shrubs in front of the house. The smaller shrubs, of course, possess self-defense devices (thorns) but that is another story for another day.

This is all of the vegetation that I removed to win my customer a view from her bedroom window.
A few final words of advice:

  • if you are just beginning to plan shrubs to place in front of your house, get shrubs that are just naturally short so that you can enjoy the view from your window.
  • if you have too-tall shrubbery, you’ll just have to keep up with the pruning so that you can look out of your window.
  • when you prune your shrubbery (tall or short), make sure to prune in front and in back. When you prune in back of the shrub, prune away any vegetation that is touching your house.
Enjoy your shrubbery. Keep it short so you can look out your window.

2 thoughts on “Rehabilitating overgrown shrubbery”

  1. Melanie T. Campbell

    A post after my own heart! I am constantly going around my yard and pruning. I have a tree in my back yard that I swear grows 3 feet every year. I call it "The tree I love to hate"! I let it live because it has beautiful burgandy leaves, sweet smelling white flowers in the spring, and berries for the birds. I have no idea what kind it is though. Thanks for the post!

  2. Kebba Buckley Button

    Alice, you are speaking my language! My mother lives in an area of Denver, where juniper bushes were planted at the front corners of the homes, in the 1950's. All of the junipers are now the height of the roof and a bit bald looking near the core. Whenever we walk the area, we fantasize replacing them with some other shrub, with what height and characteristics. There's no trimming them to size at this point. You would just have brown trunks, and people would know you were rather odd :-). As you say, sometimes you can trim them, and sometimes you have to replace them. I've had pink-blooming oleanders (I'm in Phoenix)that I gradually trimmed into the appearance of cherry trees, and they gave everyone great joy. Thanks for raising this really important topic! Blessings!

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