Don’t torture your shrubs, bushes

December 7, 2022

Castanet – Sigrie Kendrick – December 7, 2022

It makes me so sad to see trees and shrubs tortured by people who chose the wrong one to trim like a hedge, or trim it into unusual shapes. It’s even sadder when the person masquerades as a “professional” landscaper.

On an emotional level, I find it painful to see trees and shrubs trimmed into balls or squares, regardless of their natural form, especially if that natural shape is a particularly attractive one. Pruning causes stress to the plant and as such should not be done without good reason.

Basic pruning requires little more than the removal of dead, damaged, or diseased wood to maintain the health of the plant.

I was recently contacted by a strata council with an interest in converting a portion of the landscape to xeriscape, an ever-more frequent occurrence as more people realize the importance of water conservation.

I have made many of these site inspections throughout the valley and was fairly sure, based on the age of the strata, of what I would encounter.

The landscapers for this complex had tip-pruned all of the existing shrubs which is not ideal, but it’s easy, as it often involves just a quick pass over the shrub with a hedge trimmer.

Especially offensive to me, the Berberis thunbergii, commonly known as Barberry, throughout the complex, had been systematically shorn.

Left to grow naturally, barberry has a graceful, weeping form yet little of this was evident because they had been so badly pruned.

You can see how beautiful their form is by either visiting our website at or in person at the Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s Demonstration Garden at 4075 Gordon Dribe in Kelowna.

This pruning had also eradicated the lovely bright red berries which would have provided winter interest and food for birds.

As I walked the property, evidence of improper pruning techniques was everywhere as the trees, shrubs, and evergreens had suffered at the hands of those either without the knowledge or without taking the care to do a proper job.

Much of the pruning at this strata was being done in an attempt to control the size of the trees and shrubs because they were improperly planted—either too close to buildings and pathways or under power lines.

If you choose the right plant for the right situation, you will eliminate the need for corrective pruning.

I noticed a newly-planted young tree and moved closer to determine the species. It was a Japanese tree lilac, Syringa reticulata, an excellent choice for the Okanagan and widely-planted throughout the valley but it was planted five feet from the condo building.

Syringa reticulata grows 30 feet tall by 20 feet wide and as such will require additional pruning just to maintain its size, a make-work project for future landscapers as it will quickly outgrow the area in which it was planted.

This strata council is spending tens of thousands of dollars on its landscape space but it is neither visually-appealing nor supportive of pollinators or beneficial insects—an increasingly important environmental consideration.

If you live in a strata, educate yourself about how and in what ways your landscape company should be serving your interests.

We need to have a better-educated landscape profession and to address this challenge, the OXA is putting on a Xeriscape Horticulture for Professionals workshop Feb. 10 in Kelowna. Email to pre-register so you receive further details about the workshop and speakers.


A gift of membership to OXA makes an excellent choice this holiday for any of the gardeners in your life and has many benefits, as detailed on our website.

Follow us on social media for inspiration on the sustainable beauty that is xeriscape as we feature a Share your Garden feature, with pictures of colourful, beautiful, xeric gardens sure to brighten your days through the winter season. Join in by sharing photos of your garden from sunnier days.

Send them to:


The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is extremely grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with them on their Make Water Work campaign.

Sigrie Kendrick is a Master Gardener and executive director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association and can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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