...now we know to stay on top of conifers!
It's a mistake to let an arb get away from you, but reducing it sure can teach a thing or two about how much little bits of green can grow.
We have arborvitaes that we've loved but now they're getting to big and we think we made a mistake in not clipping them at all, earlier. Can we cut them back to make them smaller? - S.S.
You can cut them back. After having been let go they may be somewhat unattractive for a year or so after the cut. Below, the overall process and then two real-life examples.
Note: Junipers, pines, spruces and firs...
...follow these same patterns in growth and recovery after a cut. They do not sprout from bare wood but grow only from shoots that still have foliage.
Lesson from our class
Here is how we explain this cut-back in our class, Fine pruning the landscape. (You can invite us to come speak or teach a class in your community.)
Lessons from life
Here's that process happening on two healthy arbs in good growing conditions. Both shrubs had become too large despite some pruning. They were too tall and also too wide.
(If your arbs are bigger than those shown below,
the process is the same, although you will need
a bigger saw! If you would Sponsor this page
we can spend the additional time to add photos
from this process as it occurred in cutting
back a 30 year old, 20' arborvitae hedge.)
We see that next time we prune it we can remove one whole trunk to make the plant thinner and more gracefully pyramidal.
For now, we left that extra trunk in place for the sake of its lush foliage, even though it makes the plant ungainly and too wide. For about a year we'll let small, interior shoots make more of themselves in the increased light on the better placed trunk fill in.
The story startsafter the plant's already been cut once to make it shorter and somewhat more narrow.
Probably you notice the gap top center, where we cut the main trunk down by a bit over three feet in that stage one pruning.