From the Sperry Gardens: April 2015


I don’t like questions that begin with “Neil, how far back can I trim my ___?” That usually means someone made a mistake when they planted a tree or shrub in a spot that didn’t have enough room. It usually means they’re about to become butchers.

So late last week, I was wondering the same thing myself. My Needlepoint hollies had grown too tall, and they were not only concealing the back side of our deck (4 feet from ground to deck walking surface), but they were actually flopping up and over the seating.


I’ve done this type of reconstructive pruning many times before, starting when I maintained yards for neighbors when I was a teenager, and throughout my entire career. In this case, I admit to hiring a couple of young guys much stronger than I to negotiate the slope and the brush removal. My job was to perch on the bench and direct every one of their cuts.


As you look at the “after” photo (perhaps more properly, “aftermath”), notice that we tried always to trim just above a branch or a bud that could take over now as top growth was being removed. You’ll see stubs on some of the stems, but there is a bud immediately beneath each one of them. And we left as much foliage as we possibly could. I always refer to this as “nurse foliage,” because it will be manufacturing the foods that will sustain the plants as they regrow.

For now, let’s adjourn our discussions. As the plants regrow in a few months, I’ll show you their progress. I’m just glad we could get this completed before the new growth ramped up for the spring.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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