Prune Shrubs Properly

Gardening with Nature

Article by Sigrie Kendrick

Avoid Pruning Stress

Few things are more irritating than seeing shrubs that the deer have pruned.

However, wrapping them in burlap to help them escape the ravages of these animals who are trying to survive winter’s icy blast is not the answer. Instead, browse our plant database and read our blogs on alternatives to the water-thirsty cedar hedge which is so attractive to deer.

What’s even more irritating is shrubs that have been sheared into box or vase shapes by a lazy landscaper or gardener. On an emotional level, I find it painful to see these trees and shrubs tortured into balls or squares, regardless of their natural form, especially if that natural shape is a particularly attractive one.

Pruning causes stress to the plant and as such should not be done without good reason.

Basic pruning requires little more than the removal of dead, damaged, or diseased wood to maintain the health of the plant.


Close up of fall leaves in the garden
Especially offensive to me is seeing such shrubs as the Berberis thunbergii, commonly known as Barberry, that have been systematically shorn. Left to grow naturally, barberry has a graceful, weeping form yet little of this is evident when they are badly pruned. You can see how beautiful their natural form is at the Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s Demonstration Garden at 4075 Gordon Dr. in Kelowna. Such careless pruning also eradicates the lovely bright red berries which provide winter interest and food for birds. Sometimes such drastic pruning is done in an attempt to control the size of trees and shrubs because they were improperly planted—either too close to buildings and pathways or under power lines. If you choose the right plant for the right situation, you will eliminate the need for corrective pruning later on. Thousands of dollars are often spent due to poor planning or design, on landscaping that is neither visually appealing nor supportive of pollinators or beneficial insects—an increasingly important environmental consideration.

Sigrie Kendrick is a Master Gardener and Executive-Director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association. She can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at

As a group blog and forum, we really appreciate your contributions and comments and hope to create a blossoming community of xeriscape gardeners well as a valuable archive of articles.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles