When it comes to hedges, which do you prefer – shaped or wild? Boxy or freeform?

Using Pyracantha as an example, let’s look at the different approaches to pruning or not pruning.

Here are heavily pruned “tidy” Pyracanthas in Albuquerque’s North Valley:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, The Plant Lady Chronicles

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, The Plant Lady Chronicles

I know that the homeowner prefers the neatness of the straight-edged pruning. He hires someone to come in every so often with one of those electric hedge trimmers and go to town on the plants. The heavy pruning reduces the number of berries, but their shady location also contributes to fewer berries. The homeowner probably has good reasons (although I haven’t asked) for wanting to keep the Pyracantha pruned so tightly. They’re laden with thorns, and there are kids around, so he may be concerned with safety. And also space may be an issue – there’s not much room for the plants to grow wild in the driveway.

Pruning the Pyracantha that heavily is many people’s choice – he’s not alone. There are examples of box-shaped hedges all over the city.

But he may not realize the plant’s potential, either.

Here’s an example from another homeowner who chose the “wild” path, letting the Pyracantha grow with abandon (also in the North Valley):

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, The Plant Lady Chronicles

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, The Plant Lady Chronicles

Breathtaking, isn’t it? This row of Pyracantha offers a gorgeous natural fence, shielding the house from outside eyes and probably intruders as well (someone would have to be pretty stupid to try and climb a thorny fence like that!).

There’s also a lot more space to allow the plants to grow on this property than the first example.

How a plant is pruned is a personal choice. It should be an informed one, however. No one should prune a hedge into a box shape just because everyone else is doing it. Sometimes, the plants should be allowed to grow the way they want to grow. And sometimes a little shaping or training is necessary.

My regular readers know that I much prefer the latter example. I’m not a fan of heavy pruning because I think box-shaped hedges look ridiculous and decidedly unnatural. And also because they’re examples of lazy pruning – it’s quick and easy to take shears and lop off branches indiscriminately. It’s much more nuanced and time-consuming to give a plant an “editing” that encourages new growth without destroying the plant’s natural shape.

I’m curious, which do you prefer?


Good To Grow is an Albuquerque-based interior and exterior landscaping service. We use plants and flowers to decorate offices, homes and patios around the city. We also offer memorial garden services, meaning that when a loved one passes, we can plant a customized garden in his or her honor. If the person who passed was an avid cook, we can plant an herb garden to honor that person’s memory. If a Veteran dies, we can plant a red, white, and blue perennial flower garden. If you lost a beloved pet, we can plant a garden around the burial site.

If you’d like to know more about the landscaping or memorial garden services offered, please send an email to lizatheplantlady at gmail dot com. Thank you for your consideration.