hand prune shrubs as an example of Free or Low-Cost Fix-ups tips
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Shrub Saver

PRO: Roger Cook, TOH landscape contractor

SECRET: To fill out a top-heavy evergreen shrub, such as a yew or boxwood, stow away the hedge trimmer in favor of hand pruners, says Roger. The temptation is to shear off the top, but this just perpetuates the problem, creating denser foliage on the cut branches, which prevents sunlight from penetrating to the center of the plant. Instead, use a bypass pruner or loppers to surgically remove branches on the top and sides to let in light. Cut back either to the intersection of two branches, just above a green leaf, or to the base of the shrub. Start in late winter or early spring by making four to five softball-size holes. In the short term your shrub may look a bit like Swiss cheese, but by next spring it will leaf out more evenly from the base to the top.
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