Garden Design Update: Pruning Up

The garden designer and her partner, the hort-abler, returned one evening late this past week to survey the back yard and discuss “what next” in my garden design process.

“What next” included a suggestion to prune one of the viburnums, Viburnum prunifolium, so that it would be more like a small tree instead of a massive shrub. I was delighted to take on that little assignment. I love to prune things. I don’t know that I do a great job pruning, but I love to do it anyway.

I headed out to the garden this morning with pruning tools of various sorts, a pair of heavy gloves, and safety goggles…
… then I sized up the viburnum…

And commenced with sawing, pruning, and cutting back until I ended up with…

A small tree.

Already, I can see why she asked me to do this. It turned a massive wall of shrubs into something a little more defined. Suddenly there is a place to plant some little shade loving plants, or something, under there. And guess what, according to MOBOT, this viburnum is usually grown as a small tree, anyway.

I think those other viburnums in that massive wall of green could use a little pruning, too, not to turn them into small multi-trunk trees but to control their size a little more. I’ll tend to that later, realizing, of course, that these are spring flowering shrubs and so any pruning I do now will reduce the amount of bloom next spring. "Later" might actually be next spring after they bloom.

While she was here, the garden designer also gave each area of the garden a name to refer to so that when she comes back with the design, she can refer to those areas by their names. I think that helps contribute to that design element I'm looking for called "placeness".

The design will include some specific suggestions for plants along with some generalities for me to fill in on my own and in my own time.

I’m going to refine those garden names this weekend to suit myself, because I do love giving my own names to things.

She also brought some reading material for me, including the book, Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy. I already had it but haven’t had a chance to read it, so I’ll move that to the top of my reading pile. I’ll also be studying some pamphlets she left me on native plants for my area. I’m supposed to let her know which ones I like. Apparently “all of them” is too many for my garden.

Now that it is the height of summer, we’ll hold off on any more planting until early fall. In the meantime, there is plenty for me to do besides read books and pamphlets and dream of native plants.

I need to order bulbs, find pictures of gates I like so we can finalize the design of a gate into the vegetable garden, study native plants, finish forming the path through the woodland garden and maybe find some stones to pave it with, buy some seating for the garden, admire my beautiful new patio, look for a fountain to put on it, and of course, tend to all that has been planted so far.

That should keep me busy and off the streets for awhile.


  1. Please tell us about that saw! I enlarged the photo as far as possible but couldn't make out the brand. My neighbors were having their house painted recently and one of the crew used a saw like that to make VERY short order of clearing away decades of shrubbery (maybe not the way I would have done it, but it sure went fast).

  2. I love to prune also. With my husband screaming, "not any more limbs," I continue on, and my Dogwood looks great with a lovely shade garden underneath!


  3. Wow what a difference that makes! The multi limbed trunk is a much better focal point than the mass texture of the shrub - good job :)

  4. You're a wonderful pruner! And what I absolutely LOVE is that you picked up all the trimmings. The chief-pruner here isn't all that fond of picking up the clippings...
    Looking good!

  5. Wow! What a difference. You give us courage to tackle such projects. Way to go, Carol!

  6. You did a great job! It looks wonderful pruned up!

  7. Well, I'm glad you finally found a way to keep yourself off the streets. You make it sound like you were turning into a hoodlum or something.

  8. Thanks everyone for the kind words. I still have some touch up pruning to do, but it's getting there!

    Sixty-five... that's a cordless reciprocating saw with a pruning blade. It runs off rechargeable ni-cad batteries. That particular one is a Porter-Cable brand, available at most hardware stores. It is a dream come true for pruning larger stems!

  9. Great job, Carol.....and the reciprocating saw must be my favorite tool - once pruned a huge (and I mean 20' feet wide) sprawling juniper with one.

  10. I did the same earlier this summer, though I hadn't planned to make it look like a tree. I just kept cutting out the dead and half-dead undergrowth until a tree was all that was left. I was shocked at first, now I quite like it.

  11. To the right, behind the tree -- I think I saw a fairy peep out!
    Can't wait to see more 'makeover' photos!

  12. I love pruning too! It is so satisfying. You've given me a great idea for a crape myrtle in my yard which is to bushy and shrubby - I think when it finishes blossoming I might turn it into more of a tree shape - do you think that would work (worried frown!)?

    P.S. Don't tel my husband - he stresses out that I'll prune too much!

  13. Great Job Carol, I love pruning too. I love the final results. I'm glad you have found something to keep you off the streets-big grin. I need a garden Guru too. No I'll just come here for inspiration...Great Blog. Makes me want to go pruning but it's 90's today-ugh

  14. I like to prune, too. Sometimes I go a little overboard and don't know when to stop. You did a great job. What a difference and you created a new place for more favorites.

  15. Perfect! That's just what the Viburnum needed. And it's an added bonus that you now have space for more "stuff!" I just did that to my monster Buddleia out front and was shocked at how much better it looked with a small tree shape and some definition. I'm so enjoying your journey through the design transformation in your garden. Looking forward to seeing you in a few days!


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