See the yew above the rock wall? For 20 years we've kept it just that size, featuring feathery ends and great health. We do that with just one cut a year.
The key to keeping a yew healthy is to thin as well as shear. This applies to almost any plant that's regularly clipped.
Thinning cuts allow light to penetrate further into the shrub so growth is more dense and the plant has more energy.
Thinning makes holes in the shrub. Correct. Are those holes unsightly? No. Just look again at that low hedge. It's thinned and beautiful.
Thinning helps prevent the hollow ball look. This look developed over several years on this shrub. The look is also known as "ugly ankles."
Thinning helps stave off ugly ankles, as does proper shaping of shorn plants. Form them narrower at the top than the base -- cut along the yellow line here. Better yet, cut along the orange line.
The tight pruning results in the formation of green meatballs, cubes, rectangles and other odd shapes. - Michael Dirr -
The low hedge you saw in our thinning demonstration is a good example of a healthy shorn plant. Here it is being cut back five years ago to reduce its height. At that time we thinned it way down, so all that open space filled with soft new branches. Today's thinning didn't create visible holes because that great depth of green shows through every opening.