Lolling skip laurel
I have 4 large skip laurels along the front of my house, all planted at the same time. The front-most one has branches that are lolling, while the others are compact. Can you advise me on whether it just needs pruning, and if so how (and how much) should I prune errant branches to restore fullness? Back to the base, less severely. I am a timid pruner and I don't want to do more harm than good.
Montgomery County Maryland
These Skip Laurels look to be in fairly good condition. Branches that have outgrown their ability to support themselves may stiffen-up in time as the wood thickens with age. You can, however, prune it back a bit if you wish. Pruning can be done now in spring and can go back as far along the branch as you wish. Thick stems (probably above 1" or 1.5") would benefit from a heavy-duty pair of loppers or a small pruning saw, as it is likely too thick at that size for hand pruners. Where to cut: prune off either about as far back as it takes to even-out the branch length with the surrounding stems or prune further back into the interior if you feel the stem is still too twisted or bent.
This page on pruning gives guidance about where to cut; for your situation, look under the sections "proper pruning cuts" and "removing larger branches" for tips on where to make a cut in relation to the main stem. (You won't have anything large enough here to do the three-step cut, just the hand pruner-type single cut.)