Written by Brad Bateman
“What are you doing!?” These were the words of my shocked father running out of the house one mid-March morning. He has two dogwoods that had grown to almost ten feet and were covering his living room windows and I told him that I would rejuvenate them for him. He normally doesn’t allow anyone to touch his landscape, however, he agreed to let me help him because of my Master Gardener certification and the fact that I’m an ISA Certified Arborist. Shrub rejuvenation is when you trim the shrub way back and hit the reset button on its growing habits. I had cut his dogwoods back from ten feet to around 18 inches and he was petrified, not knowing what would happen to his favorite shrub in his landscape. Little did he know that in a few short months, those 18 inch shrubs would be lush five feet tall shrubs that fit perfectly in their spot in the landscape. He loved how they looked so much that he rejuvenates them every other year to keep them looking the same as they did that first year after he had to trust that his son knew what he was doing.
Shrub rejuvenation is not that difficult once you get the hang of it. For dogwoods, our end goal is twelve to twenty branches that are all roughly the size of your pinkie finger. When beginning this process, the first step is to remove any dead or really thick branches by cutting them as close to the ground as possible. Then we pick the height that we want by looking at the nodes, or the point on a plant where a branch, bud, or leaf develops. It is easiest to choose a middle branch node that is roughly the height you want and cut that branch first and work your way out from there. We want to make the cut as close to the top of the node as possible. The next step is to remove any low growing branches that don’t fit the shape of the plant. The final product will have a roughly round shape to it with all the branches being about the same size. A convenient thing that the City of Fargo does is pick up branches for free. If you leave a pile of branches on your boulevard, the City will come and pick them up on your designated garbage day.
The spring is an important time of year for the shrubs in our landscapes. Rejuvenating our larger shrubs will give us a chance to keep our shrubs at a manageable size throughout the year. Once the growing season begins in mid-April, it becomes too late to do such drastic trimming to our shrubs, so don’t wait. My dad still calls me every spring to tell me how excited he is to get out and rejuvenate his dogwoods.
If you’re looking for more information on shrub trimming or tree pruning, check out our web page here!