The previous owners planted a large series of geometric beds with azalea and juniper in the front garden long before we owned the property. Over the course of a year, these plantings can get quite shaggy. Typically I use the hedge trimmers on them, due to their geometric shapes and size. It isn’t the preferred method of pruning azaleas, but more of a “make do” arrangement.

Azalea Trimming - 1

The azaleas need to be trimmed after they bloom, but before they set new growth and buds for the next flowering season. Several times in the past, including last year, I have missed this window and been forced to wait another year before pruning. This makes the job more difficult, but it still has to be done.

We are slowly reworking all of these beds to change the character of the front yard The junipers inter-planted with the azaleas are all dying. As we remove them, I am either clearing the entire bed, as we did with the lavender bed in the foreground of the photos or “naturalizing” the beds by removing any juniper and a few of the azaleas and then letting the remaining azaleas grow into a more naturals shape and size.

Azalea Trimming - 2

I took advantage of a beautiful, cool day yesterday to work through these beds. It is hard to tell in the photo, since all the green blends together, but all the geometric beds are now neatly trimmed, except for a few stragglers along the bottom. These I will have to clean up by hand, one at a time. I was lucky to get some time yesterday, as this project really needed to be done before we leave on a trip to the UK in mid-June. I probably would have still been within my window of time, but the temperatures here were sure to be a lot hotter and make the job a lot more uncomfortable.

Finally, there are a series of large azaleas which grow against the front of the house. These have been spared the hedge trimmer and, to my eye, look much more appealing and natural in their habits. Still, they need to be pruned every so often, lest they consume the front of the house. I hand prune each of these plants, working to maintain a low, somewhat weeping habit. They seem to like this treatment as they never fail to bloom amazingly each year. That job will have to wait until we return from our trip, unfortunately.

Azalea Trimming - 4

Along with that job, I also hand prune the small (although growing larger) pines in the front garden. I describe it as “bonsai in place”. My goal is to keep them small and then prune them in a way that encourages a twisted/gnarled arrangement to the limbs. It seems to be working, so far, although right now they appear more like fuzzy pom-poms instead of the bonsai I prefer. This requires quit a bit of time, although I describe the process as particularly zen-like. I look, I think, I prune, look, think, prune and then repeat again and again until I have what I am looking for. I think this feeds my artistic sensibilities much as painting would.

Stay tuned here for more projects to come this summer!