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Cut-Back Shrubs

Sambucus nigra 'Aurea' [October 12, 2009]

Inspired by some recent posts by Thomas over at Grounded Design, I’ve been thinking a good bit about the gardening trends I’ve seen come and go over the past 25-plus years. I’ve enjoyed exploring many of them myself, and even those that now seem rather boring or impractical have left traces on the garden I have today.

Back in the early to mid-90s, for instance, when I was developing my previous garden, mixed borders were a hot topic at lectures and conferences, and I totally bought into the idea. Trying to incorporate shrubs into my plantings was a real challenge, though, because that garden was very small. Then, I started hearing about the great “new” idea of cut-back shrubs, and wow – that made all the difference. Who knew that there were shrubs that would tolerate being cut back almost to the ground each year? They’d give height and mass and winter structure, and it took only one simple pruning step to keep them from taking up too much valuable border space.

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