If those shrubs around the base of your home are more than 10 years old, they have worn out their welcome. If you have a hedgerow that really never grew together, or has a few bare spots, it might be time to hang up the hedge trimmers and plant some fresh shrubs.
Taxus, or English Yew, is a popular foundation plant. You know what they are. They are the tall shrubs on almost every corner of a home. They are also really popular as a fencerow screen or along the front of a property to protect it from road salt and winter damage.
They are tall and stately, but after many years of no pruning and winter damage, they can get out of shape. You may have wanted something that looked like Roman Column, but after hacking out some major branches that tall column looks more like a hot dog.
If you think you can save it and get it back into shape, the best time to prune it is in mid to late spring. Cut vigorous stems about halfway back to a healthy bud and get rid of any weak stems in the center of the plant. Step back and if you want to get rid of the bulges, start pruning out a few branches from the center to make it look long and thin.
If it has really gotten out of shape and you like that plant in that location, it is time to cut your losses and pull it out. Plant a new one in its place and be sure to wrap it in the winter to protect the branches from being burned by salt and wind in the winter.
Yews and boxwoods are common plants used for hedges or foundation plantings. These are usually the culprits that grow into “gum ball shrubs. Those are the green balls that many people leave for too long around the base of the house, shearing them every year with the hedge clippers and watching them get thinner and thinner in the center.
If you are starting over, don’t just cut the old shrubs down at the base. Find a way to dig them out or pull them out of the ground to get rid of the stump. Add compost to the vacated holes and carefully plant the new shrubs.
It is critical in the first two years of planting a hedgerow that you prune it immediately after planting to about half of its size. The roots will need most of their energy to get a foothold under the ground before working in the foliage above the ground.
In the mid summer, cut the fast growing stragglers and trim any new shoots with hand pruners. The second year, cut a third of the new growth off. It is important because it trains it to grow out. And by growing out, they will start to fill into a continuous hedge.
Once your hedge has reached the height you are looking for, trim it back about a foot from this height. This will cause the plant to form new shoots and the new shoots will grow out and hide all of your pruning work.
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