Pruning Boxwoods and Yews - July 2023

Adding evergreens was #1 on my 2023 list and I've put in a series of Boxwoods in the front and back.  And those were added to the existing stands of Boxwoods around the garden.  Most of them are small, but a few of them have grown in size and have a number of seasons growing.  I also had a run with Hicks Yews the past few seasons, where I added quite a few of them around the backyard - starting all the way back in 2019.  


I've TOTALLY left them unpruned to date.  Why?  Pruning evergreen shrubs and boxwoods in particular is an art.  Something that I have little experience with as a gardener.  I've *mostly* left my Boxwoods grow wild and shaggy - allowing them to put on some size.  

But... pruning shrubs as a 'seasonal project' on my 2023 to-do list.  So, it was time to take a look at some of the evergreen shrubs.

#22 on my 2022 to-do list was to 'upgrade my garden tools'.  I did that a little bit by adding a Dutch push/pull hoe.  I also did that by getting (I think for Christmas?  I don't totally remember) a new (to me) electric SunJoe hand shear and trimmer.  

Back in this post about our backyard boxwoods last Summer (June 2022), I mused about getting a tool to work and shape these boxwoods.  I mentioned some Niwaki shears as the 'fun' choice.  And this SunJoe shear as the 'logical' choice.  Here's what it looks like with the trimmer blade.


It also comes with this shear blade, too.


I started with the four, clustered Boxwoods that are planted near our patio, under our kitchen window.  These have really put on some size and are more upright than the Green Velvets in our front yard (more on those below).  These four (below) were planted in 2018.  That means they're in their sixth growing season (18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and now 23).  Here's what they looked like a year ago - shorter and (at the time) shaggyTheir first Spring, they were pretty tiny - about the same size as the ones I have recently put in under the Lindens.  

I came across a few pieces of evergreen shrub inspiration that have stuck with me - and I included them in this post from January 2019 where I pointed to a Jacques Wirtz cloud-pruned hedge.  And that wavy Bunny Williams Yew hedge.  And, then I saw this wavy, interlocked cloud of Boxwoods at Fedex.  And, from then on, I knew that I wanted these to sort of grow 'together' - and not be individually pruned balls.  

Using the SunJoe shears, I got busy and started to take off just a little bit on all sides to sort-of shape them into orbs, but ones that touch each other at the seams.  Below is how far I was willing to take these boxwoods with pruning:


I think they look pretty good now that they've been shaped and I'll continue to get better at using the shears every time I use them.

With a little bit of confidence, I decided to get after the front Green Velvet boxwoods.  These are looking the best they have looked in our time here.  And that *has to be* because the Norway Maple is gone and they're NOT being competed so heavily against.  Everything up there looks better this year - from these boxwoods (which have put on a little growth) to the Hydrangeas (which are the largest they've ever been) to the Dusty Millers that I planted as an annual last year and have taken OVER the front border.  

I used the same technique - shearing the edges to round the boxwoods up and taking a little more at each of the seams so they have a cloud-bumping-into-each-other look.  I didn't take as much off these, but just gave them a little shape.  See below for current, late July look of the five legacy Green Velvet boxwoods out the front porch:

With two sets of evergreens pruned, I opted to head back to the Hicks Yew hedge.  Planted in 2019 as a series of tiny 1# shrubs, these upright evergreens are (now) in their fifth growing season (19, 20, 21, 22 and now 23).  And they're all performing a little different.    When I planted them, they were all different sizes with SOME reaching high and others staying compact.  Over these five growing seasons, I've seen some with some dieback and others that are really stretching out and, frankly...getting a little leggy.  

I opted for a little experiment.  And, pruned with my secateurs (not the SunJoe) some select branches.  In hopes of stimulating some growth but UP (these are upright after all), but also OUT so they fill out a bit.  Below is an example of one of the Hicks Yews that has one limb WAY up in the air,  but the other half is lagging behind:

I lop'd off the top of the bottom branch and left the taller one alone (for now).  Below is the clip that I took:

There's plenty of season left to put on some new growth and if this works (to stimulate growth on the Yews), I will likely be a little more aggressive in very late Winter/very early Spring next year on these.

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