Is pruning just a matter of taste?

by Yvonne on November 7, 2013 · 6 comments

in Plants, Shrubs

My daily walks through our neighborhood often turn into landscape critiques. As the colors have turned, I’ve been noticing the many burning bushes and how they’re pruned or not.

burning bush

A burning bush (Euonymus alatus) pruned into a big ball to keep it in bounds

I dislike the look of the one above, but I do understand why it’s being pruned: to keep it contained and out of the neighboring driveway. But couldn’t it have been pruned more naturally and still have met that objective?

burning bush

A very open version of the same plant

burning bush

This burning bush hasn’t been pruned recently

The one above is growing in a really open habit and has been allowed to spread naturally. It doesn’t look like anyone has pruned it at all. To me, it’s much more pleasing in form, although some judicious pruning could take its size down a little and encourage it to fill in more.

I suspect that the shrub on our property (picture right) might have been pruned into a ball at one time, but it hasn’t been pruned over the past couple of seasons. It’s growing in a rounded, mounded shape, but one that I feel is much more pleasing and natural than the one at the top.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Helen at Toronto Gardens November 10, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I’m a relativist when it comes to pruning. As long as it works with the overall design of the garden, is artfully done and in proportion to the growth of the plant, I’m not overly critical. We’ve all seen odd lollypop pruning jobs that seem off-kilter. But why is it okay to prune evergreen topiary or hedges, but not okay to create a ball of burning bush? I can only see two plants in your picture. Imagine if there were another ball of something that created compositional balance. I could see it working. But, that’s just me.


Helen at Toronto Gardens November 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I should add that, generally speaking, I also prefer the natural habit of many trees and shrubs. Forsythia, for example, almost always looks better when left to itself.


Yvonne November 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I agree with you, Helen. I should have photographed a neighboring house, where they have a group of burning bushes pruned into balls in their foundation planting. It worked much better because the plants were grouped and they were much smaller. (Now it’s too late, the leaves have fallen.) The one I pictured above is just too big and blobby, as it stands there all by itself.


Joy November 11, 2013 at 9:17 am

I have to giggle when I see poor shrubs that have been pruned into huge balls .. but I also have to admit to being heavy handed at times with the pruners.
I have yet to shape anything into a ball form though.
I think you are right with your title .. pruning can very much be a matter of personal taste for some gardeners .. I guess if it makes them happy (and doesn’t kill the plant ?LOL) it is their garden and so be it.
It is a smoother transition for the eye to follow a flow from the natural shapes of plants .. seeing a stark ball form STOPS that flow with a “bang!” haha


Guest November 16, 2013 at 9:15 pm

I disagree. I prefer native plants to burning bushes in general, but the one pruned into a ball looks a lot nicer. It adds a little structure and formality to the yard, and I think they did a good job keeping the shape even.


Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm January 28, 2014 at 10:41 am

I think it depends on the shrub/tree. Junipers and evergreens need to be pruned to keep their shape and fruit trees, of course, need pruning to produce fruit. I like the natural look of most ornamental shrubs, especially forsytha. It’s so beautiful with all arching branches instead of a tight ball.


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