The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

To hack or not to hack. That is the question.


I think ‘pruning’ doesn’t always suffice or give the right impression about what a plant actually needs. For me ‘pruning’ brings to mind sepia pictures of ‘dainty gardeners’ from a byegone era, who used hand trowels, trugs and copper long-spout watering cans that cost silly money today.

But I’m more of a plastic hose and shovel kinda guy. I prune my climbers when I want to train them, my sambucus get their annual chop but pretty much everything else gets hacked! There’s nothing genteel about a ‘hack’. It’s brutal and looks excessive. But the plants thrive on it! They really do.

Are you a hacker like me?

More blog posts by Muddywellies

Previous post: Most plants will thrive on 'tough love'

Next post: "Chainsaw pruners"



I totally agree, and follow the same practises.
A lot of pruning is based on 'common sense' and often the plants let you know when a 'haircut' is needed, but we all need to check when its the right time to prune particular species.
We have a very mature Wisteria at the front of the house and last year it provided the best ever spectacular display of flowers, probabaly because we cut it back really hard the pevious year and it also needed a seroius re-shaping.
Best wishes,

25 Mar, 2008


Umm, I know where you are coming from on most stuff, but I pruned my ceanothus hedge last year after it had flowered, fed it, and if you see my recent blog on ceanothus the haircut killed it. I was brutal, but I think you have to think twice with some plants

25 Mar, 2008


I often refer to the cutting down of shrubs by unskilled Council employees as "chainsaw pruning"

25 Mar, 2008


Andrearichter, when I saw your post I guessed immediately that you 'pruned' your ceonothus just like any other plant - around the outside. But ALL ceonothus should be pruned from underneath. This is why people should register and join my forums to ask these simple, straightforward questions.

Back to your ceonothus. Eventually, after years of pruning underneath you will eventually find your plant getting too high on top and looking cave-like underneath which is when it ought to be removed and replaced. But for many years you will have enjoyed your plant looking at its best. . . .

Hebes behave pretty much the same (don't cut these from underneath though). Trim hebes 3-5 inches around the outside depending upon growth. But eventually after ten years they will be getting too big on the outside and very barren inside. If that's OK for where they are fine, but if not, cut them down and replace. Cutting into the old wood of a hebe will ruin it.

Andrew r. I will respond about your chainsaw pruners in my blog.

26 Mar, 2008


With the greatest of respect Muddywellies you have just contradicted yourself a touch! You talk about 'hacking' in your original text but when giving advice about my Ceonothus you are giving detailed advice about how to prune and a 'hack' is not your recommended way of pruning! Also with the Hebes you are recommending a different way of pruning than just hacking into them.
All plants grow and respond differently to pruning and it is always prudent to read up on this before going out and hacking something that may not recover. I consider myself pretty good at pruning and I get good effects from this every year, the Ceonothus, however was a bad choice on my part for a hedge and the plants in this part of the hedge haven't coped very well to their yearly prune. Last year I did take branches from the bottom as I was unable to mow the grass underneath the bottom growth.

26 Mar, 2008


As you correctly state Andrea, plants do need to be researched before any trimming to avoid the problems you speak of.

In the context of my original blog the point I was trying to make was this; that all too often many gardeners are somewhat reluctant to prune hard, preferring to snip at the edges when all too often a plant may often be crying out for a hard prune or 'hack' and gardeners should not be afraid to 'have a good go' in such cases. After researching about it first of course . . . . . .

Since you mentioned ceanothus I responded and followed up with the example of another common shrub which also suffers from the identical problem of not pruning the old wood. It's all part of healthy blogging.

26 Mar, 2008

Add a comment

Featured on

Recent posts by Muddywellies