Naturalistic Pruning

Asked August 20, 2020, 8:15 PM EDT

I live on a 2-acre property which has mostly woodland gardens, bushes, and small trees. My husband had done all the pruning but he passed away. I am trying to find someone to hire that could do some naturalistic pruning of rhododendrons, dogwoods, lilacs, azaleas, viburnums, etc. I don't have the knowledge nor the skill to be able to do this well myself. The only people I've been able to find are those who would just shear all these bushes. And I have not had good luck with some of the large high-priced landscaping companies. I could use some names of individuals or companies that would have a naturalistic aesthetic. Or direct me to some place that could help me find someone. Joanne Timmel Western Run Road (I'm pretty close to the ag center)

Baltimore County Maryland

1 Response

Some of the plants you mention, when best situated, really don't need pruning at all other than perhaps the removal of dead branches. Rhododendrons, dogwoods, viburnum and azaleas are most beautiful and natural-looking without being pruned or with just the errant branch removal here or there.
We agree that it is not unusual and a sad case to see little round balls of azaleas especially.
Lilacs don't need a lot of pruning either, other than perhaps the removal of 1/3 of the oldest, thick woody or dead branches all the way to the ground.
Note: Lilacs only bloom well in full sun, and many older landscapes are more shady than they'd like, which can lead to them reaching for light and looking spindly. Pruning them will not fix that.
Sometimes hired people just don't know or understand the natural growth forms of shrubs or the best timing for pruning to be done.
Unfortunately we are not allowed to recommend any companies or brands.

It will take a kind of interview technique to talk with landscapers to explain what you want and expect. Finding a company that has an interest/specialty in landscaping with native plants or conservation may be more apt to have a more naturalistic aesthetic.

This page from Virginia Tech Extension is helpful for the best timing of pruning of specific shrubs, which may help you to direct them: