Big mistake: Shearing what you want to be natural
Evergreens are often sheared regularly while in production at
commercial nurseries. "Buyers want chubby, thick plants," say the
Some homeowners shear their evergreens into geometric shapes.
"That looks best," they say.
Perhaps that's the case. However, if you intend to show the
plant's natural habit in your garden or landscape, you will need
patience. The newly purchased or long-sheared shrub must go through
a rather ungainly comeback for two or more years to shed the shape
enforced by shearing.
A client who admired the wide-spreading, feathery habit of
Ward's yews (Taxus x media 'Wardii') was disappointed in
what we bought and planted for her. "They're just ordinary dumpling
shrubs!" So we explained what you'll read here. The next year, we
visited to check the landscape's progress and found the yews taped
off with yellow "Keep Out" caution tape. Our client explained, "You
told me to let them grow but my husband wants to clip them in the
worst way. This was the only way I could keep him away from
The first year, a sheared evergreen's growth will probably be
fairly even from all tips. One or more shoots at the top of the
plant may break free and grow at something like the plant's normal
rate for its dominant "leaders." Such shoots will look like "wild
hairs" erupting from the plant's outline.
Let those wild hairs grow. To clip them is to prolong the
plant's return to its natural growth habit.
The second year there will be more
wild hairs. These will themselves branch in their second and
subsequent years. By the third or fourth year, the new growth may
begin to hide the plant's former outline.
Below: Now take a look at that
same young spruce through expert eyes. We see it's well on its way
to growing out of a shape (outlined in orange) that was imposed
upon it by annual pruning at the nursery or Christmas tree
With that orientation, can you see
the sheared pine in this pine-breaking free?