Pruning Styles for Shrubs

Since the early Renaissance, manicured shrubs have been a fixture of formal gardens. Centuries later, landscape designers often created gardens and groups of shrubs around a house. You can choose from a variety of styles for the effect you want.

Formal and informal styles

Formal gardens evoke neat, well-ordered gardens marked by elegant hedges that define garden spaces and boundaries. Geometric plant shapes and sheared shrubs in balls, cones or boxes are another trademark. With a traditional home, these formal, elegant looks can enhance their lines. However, avoid the overly shaped “ball” look that was a trademark of homes a decade or more ago.

Today’s more casual lifestyles lead to more naturalistic, casual gardens. Shrubs aren’t strictly pruned, but are thinned as required to emphasized their natural shapes, tiered branches, cascading limbs and naturally irregular outlines.

Pruning for a natural or formal style

The style you choose will dictate the pruning techniques you choose.

For a more natural and informal effect, pruning follows the plant’s normal growth patterns. Only a little attention is required each year to maintain this natural size and shaping.

The sharp lines and square and round edges of formal gardens require more work. The natural shape is altered by this process, so the actual plant growth becomes less important. Boxwood and yew are popular because they respond so well to formal clipping. These formal hedges will require pruning several times per year, depending on the plants growth.