Monday, 22 March 2021

Spare that tree

I’m in no position to give a master class on garden pruning but I am going to rant about bad pruning and how destructive it is.  Let’s face it nature doesn’t prune, it’s something introduced hopefully to improve on nature, but not always.

I prune cautiously and if I don’t know what to do I find out.  I’ve been almost reduced to tears when I’ve see some of the damage done by the so called gardener who looks after our communal grounds back in the U.K.  He mainly works with a hedge trimmer, has no idea about taking out old wood, dead wood, wood that has flowered or making space.  At any time of year he shapes round shrubs, well often he makes them square which I detest, or cuts them to the ground.  Last year in about an hour he destroyed at least £100 worth of established pieris, beautiful evergreen shrubs that I was so pleased to find in our garden. 

Here in Italy things grow quicker and bigger.  In many of the little towns and villages main roads are lined with an Avenue trees and every year it’s a major traffic stopping operation to cut them back.   The trees have been heavily pollarded until they have become tortured and ugly as you can see here, the photo from the internet is of a town not so far away but our village street looks identical but not flat.

I don’t think it’s ever crossed anyone’s mind that this annual expensive exercise which is taking place now could be avoided by replacing the gnarled old trees with ones that are suitably sized and enhance the street scene.

A neighbour here every year engages another so called gardener to trim his hedges and shape his conifers, they are so sharp you could cut yourself on the edges.  You can call it topiary, I call it vandalism. All the work and money goes into this cutting and trimming, the rest of the sizeable garden is abandoned and colourless.

Monty Don caused controversy recently when he suggested we reduce lawn cutting, which he considers unnecessary as well as bad for the environment citing it a controlling exercise.  I’d say the same about pruning and shaping, it’s over grooming and creates a useless habitat for nature.   During lockdown with hairdressers closed we’ve got used to unkempt and wild hair, maybe we can take this more natural approach to our gardens too, let them flourish and fill with wildlife, which we don’t actually want to happen to our hair. 


  1. I am totally with you on this. Watching a tractor cutting the farm hedges with flails and you realise that it is the easy use of machinery or electric chainsaws that make it so easy.

  2. I have to admit I don't have much of a clue when cutting back my rose bushes or wisteria - even though I do watch Youtube videos. Still, they seem to come back to life pretty happily. I live on the side of a mountain with a farm at the back of my house. I remember my ex telling me that if I did this and that I could have it looking like a bowling green (he is delusional) so I asked him why I would want to? It's lovely right now, covered in primroses and I even like the moss (some of which I scraped up to make an Easter basket yesterday). In any case, "manicured" is hard work isn't it!

  3. There is plenty of information on line about pruning of shrubs and bushes - or you can get in touch with Monty who is good at giving advice.

  4. It's even worse when they thrash the hedges to bits when the birds are nesting.

  5. I'm all for a wild and unkempt lawn. I agree with you about the so called artistic topiary, I hate it!