When do you prune your shrubs?  I usually wait until early spring to do my major prune.  The logic behind this is that I want to see what is damaged in the winter weather before concentrating on the shape that I want from the shrub.

This is fine if you are vigilant in your pruning each year, but what if your shrubs get out of control?  More drastic action is then called for.  This can be done from November onwards as the plants go into winter survival mode and can take severe pruning.

Last week I saw an extreme example of this.  The two gardeners at work have over a hundred acres to look after and so have a much more challenging task than most of us in looking after the garden.  A stand of Portuguese Laurels had got to about twelve feet high and were stopping light coming into the building.  It was obvious that something had to be done about them.  I had looked at them many times and wondered how they could be tamed.


The laurel hedge obscured the view from the walkway. This picture was taken mid way through the pruning and shows the walkway starting to reappear from the vegetation.

The front of the hedge was left as it was allowing the laurel to take its place in the vista, but the rest of each of the shrubs was cut back to around 5ft, or as the gardeners described it, a safe working height that would not need ladders in future.  Certainly this was a drastic prune, but the plants will throw out new shoots in time.  Hopefully it will be a good few years before any more work is needed in this area.

View from the walkway showing the drastic nature of the pruning (and some of the windows that will receive daylight again)

Drastic pruning can sometimes be necessary to rejuvenate areas.  Not only does it benefit the plants in the longer term as they will be invigorated by the pruning, but also it opens up more views for us to enjoy.