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Crimes Against Viburnum


I want to start a neighborhood, heck a citywide, watch for crime in this town. No, not the usual kind like stabbing, robbery, murder, theft of shopping carts. No, I am talking about crimes against horticulture.

As my first official act to kick this new initiative off, I am reporting a crime against viburnum, Viburnum carlessii ‘Compactum’ to be specific. These dwarf Korean spice viburnum are certainly kept dwarf all right! These slow growing, spring flowering shrubs normally creep up to eight feet in height and girth. I do not know who is hacking the heck out of these babies with power shears at a locally undisclosed business, but they should be fired from their job. Not only are these shrubs less-than-beautiful as they are maintained, but the whole reason people plant this variety (sweet scented spring flowers) will never happen since the “landscapers” shear off the flower buds developing for next season. The only buds to survive are the ones growing deep enough within the shrub as to escape hedging genocide. The best time to prune your viburnums? Right after flowering; flower buds form in the summer for the following year.

I am not against shearing; it has its uses, but please garden responsibly, people. If you want to control growth, as I am sure is the case of this heinous viburnum crime, plant a plant which will, when full-grown, fit the size of the space you choose. PLANT THE RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT PLACE! Pruning involves, as should all gardening best practices, pruning at the right time for the right reasons.

If you want other examples of what never to do, or what often is the long-term result of continuous shearing of plants not really suited for shearing, check out this Facebook page or Instagram account: Crimes Against Horticulture. Biology and context (aesthetics) should guide your pruning decisions. There are times to hedge, coppice and pollard, but choose wisely. Just because hedging is what you do all the time does not mean it is appropriate or okay for the plant. If the plant gets too big for the space, pull it and plant something else. Plant death is just an opportunity to do something different and better.

So, will you join me in keeping a watch for crimes against horticulture? Don’t be a contributor!

Josh Steffen
Horticulture Manager

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