Overgrown Shrubs

Spirea Goldflame colziumQuestion: I have several large juniper shrubs planted in front of my home which have overgrown the sidewalk and are blocking the windows. I was going to shear them down with my power clippers, but I do not want them to become square hedges. I have read about your “natural” pruning methods. If I cut them back far enough I will expose brown branches. Are these worth saving or should I replace them?

Answer: If you had deciduous shrubs that were overgrown they could have been cut back severely and would have new green growth next spring. Then you could have pruned regularly and kept them from becoming too large again. If you cut junipers or other needle leaf evergreen shrubs into brown branches with no green needles they will seldom produce new green growth. My suggestion would be to remove them and replace them with smaller shrubs which will not overgrow the area again.

Check carefully to make sure that the mature size of the replacements fit within the allotted space. For example, Mugo Pine is a very popular evergreen shrub. However, plants grown from seed can grow as large as 20 feet. However, 3 dwarf selections, produced by grafting, grow no more than 3 to 4 feet. Pinus mugo ‘Mops’ is a dense globe with straight, green needles. It will reach a size of about 2 to 3 feet tall and just as wide. ‘Sherwood Compact’ has small, green needles and slowly grows into a globe of 3 to 4 feet tall with an equal spread. ‘Slowmound’ has a neat, mounded outline and slow growth. It reaches approximately 3 feet in height and spread.

Dwarf Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium ‘Compacta’) has evergreen holly-like leaves and matures at 2 to 3 feet. The regular variety can grow to 6 feet.

Green Mound Alpine Currant is a dwarf selection with dark green leaves and yellow fall color. It grows 4 feet high and 4 feet wide.

Spirea ‘Goldflame’ has reddish bronze new leaf color and crimson flowers in the summer. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall and can spread wider.

Cotoneaster ‘Coral Beauty’ has white flowers in the spring followed by coral red berries. It grows only 2 feet high but can spread up to 6 feet.

Caryopteris ‘Blue Mist’ has soft silver green foliage and clusters of blue flowers in the summer. It grows 4 feet high and wide.

Viburnum opulus ‘Compactum’ has white spring flowers followed by red fruit. Leaves turn wine red in the fall. It grows 4 feet tall and wide.

You can see a nice list of dwarf shrubs for mountain west climates at a Colorado State University site: colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4DMG/Trees/Shrubs/smshrubs.htm. You will seldom find these dwarf selections at big box stores. Full service nurseries and garden stores can often place special orders if they do not have them in stock.

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