Hard pruning shrubs


I’ve just calculated that it has taken me quite some time to get round to hard pruning these shrubs.

Ten years.

Ten years! I can’t believe what a confessional this blog post has become.

Utter neglect. I rummaged in my folders to see what the entrance to our garden looked like in 2007. And, shockingly, these viburnum opulus look no different to how they did last week. Except there were no scaffolding towers back then.


Overgrown about covers it. Outgrown its site. Uninspiring. Except for those delicious moments in November every few years when we get an autumn glow. (And I’ve moved the car out of the shot.)

But most of the time this was a plant in waiting. Bare sticks in winter, then the promise of spring. Then the whoosh of green and sudden fluffy flowering.

viburnumAnd this usually coincided with a brutal week of southerly wind which spread the petals all over the place, competing with the cherry blossom into tricking me it was a late snowfall.

I treated this viburnum as a glorified cutting patch. Fodder for vases but I never really put in the work to shape it or tame it. Except when we replaced the gutters and I spent a playful afternoon with loppers cutting the long growth out from behind the zinc and the tiles.

Why would this be? I think it is because this part of the farm – the entrance – never belonged to my design.  There were just three things planted in this garden when we arrived – the white wisteria, the deutzia and this viburnum. (We don’t mention the coral pink unscented rose beside the sandpit in the courtyard. I shudder even now.)

wisteria2016aIné wanted a white garden and the three plants fitted her brief. The white wisteria (another high maintenance reach for the roof beastie) was fabulous. Until it died.

And this is the last time the two appeared together. In early 2016. Fetching. If you discount the fact that anyone who loved viburnums would hiss through their teeth at the site and suggest I sharpen the loppers after flowering.

Well, we went down the chain saw route.

viburnumlilaccutdownAs you do.

Ouch.  But my pruning saw has lost its screw holding the blade in place and cutting down this many thick branches would have taken ages. Not to mention lots of swearing.

viburnumcutdownIt’s mad. It’s a risk But with the beautiful walls now exposed (and the fascinating curve of the house which bows between the 16th and 17th century parts) I thought it would be more of a feature than an unpruned shrub.

And when I stood up on the scaffolding tower I caught a picture of a completely different view. This.


I’d rather gaze on this than three scabby overgrown viburnum any day.

boxanddaffsFrom the front you can see the little bed of box balls under the (former) wisteria. And were we in a different era, I might have invested in another half dozen box balls and continued the planting around the corner.

boxinsnowBut this is 2017 and we all watch the wave of pests sweeping up across France devouring our box and grimly await out turn to be attacked.

shrubscutdownI don’t fancy shelling out a fortune for six shrubs which may succumb at any time. And I loathe planting in spring.  Give me a damp autumn to get a plant established any day.

So I’m going to see if the viburnum recovers from the dreadful shock of mass decapitation and see.

IMG_6926New shrubs that I can keep pruned (promise!) at the same height as the box.

I know it looks dreadful right now.  Believe me, I’m averting my gaze. At least I cleared up the bed, removing nettles, an astonishing number of snails, and heavily mulched.

And I did the same brutal thing to the lilac on the opposite side of the narrow road.

viblilacverticalIt’s going to sucker like mad and make me regret my reckless act. But once I get that deutzia reduced next month a whole new garden project area will open up.

Oh yes, ivy was planted here too. It has gone mad. I’ll bevery busy trying to dig that out. It has already made a mad dash for the deutzia and will happily ovewhelm.


But beside the guest house is east facing; an area that is in shade from midday. So that will be a perfect place to play over the summer. I’m holding back about sixty purple sage plants from the last propagation job. But I’ll have to come up with more than that. Watch this space.