Landscaping with Twigs:
A call for horticultural sanity

Ok, first of all I should offer a disclaimer: besides haven taken a couple of biology courses in school I have no real horticultural qualifications. Having said that, I still have to ask, what is with these people who feel the need to give their shrubbery buzz-cuts?

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, the process that these prunophiles use is very simple. The pruner starts with a large, attractive and healthy bush and cuts away at it carefully with a pair of shears until the bush has been reduced to a few bare branches sticking out of the ground. The discarded foliage is piled up on the sidewalk for the city to put into the dump with other forms of hazardous waste. I have a very hard time understanding why this butchery is practiced, but those in the landscaping business have given me a couple of different explanations.

The first rationale is aesthetic. Apparently, the ideal shrubbery has no leaves. The idea is to give the plant that clean shaven look. Of course the growth will return, but one can only let that go so far. These bushes are the poodles of the plant kingdom - if one doesn't take proper care of them, they start to look downright natural.

I have also been told by those who are in the know that cutting back bushes in this extreme manner is actually good for the shrubbery's health. This idea seems to contradict common sense. A plant which has evolved over billions of years to adapt to its environment should not have to be managed by people. The plant should do what is best for its health by itself. So, I would assume that because these bushes produce leaves, those leaves contribute to the health of the plant. It is true that good pruning can simulate the activity of herbivores in nature, but does any herbivore reduce a bush to a stump under healthy natural conditions?

return to irregulartimes.comThese rationalizations for radical branchectomy just don't add up. A more plausible, but uncomfortable, explanation is that the over-pruning of bushes is an expression of the need to keep nature, represented by the bush, under control. For people who have this need for control, a bush that has been allowed to grow naturally is neither healthy nor beautiful. In their mind's eye, these people see beauty and health represented by a naked stump. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but to my eye, this practice goes right next to the pink flamingos.

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