Artistic Land Management

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Shrubs and Groundcover

There are few topics in landscaping that generate more discussions than ‘how to prune a shrub’. Practices that dictate shaving and shaping of shrubs do not benefit the health and longevity of the plant material. To maintain sustainability, a natural appearance of shrubs and other plant materials shall be the standard. The intention of most landscape designs is to achieve a more natural, less structured look which contributes to the longer term goal of achieving a landscape that can be managed and maintained by current practices. An example of design intent is evidenced by the use of variety of blooming shrub types, and arranging them in masses on plans. A certain amount of attention is also given during deign, to the combining of shrub types to complement each other’s appearance.

Attributes such as texture, color, time of bloom or conversely time of dormancy, and environmental conditions are considered during design to produce attractive composition in the landscape year round. While there are landscapes with formality as the intended appearance, it is less common. There are shrub species which conform to a sheared look better than others. Most of our desert landscape shrubs are selected by designers because of their beautiful natural shape. It is imperative that owners discuss style of a projects appearance with both the landscape architect and maintenance contractor. Sensible plant selection combines with knowledgeable maintenance crews can achieve the intended look for any landscape. Communication is the key.


  • Remove dieback occurring from cold temperatures to rejuvenate spring growth at the correct time, i.e. – lantana, bougainvillea.
  • Remove growth that interferes with pedestrian movement.
  • Prune shrubs and groundcovers only after flowering is completed.
  • Discuss pruning style with owner.
  • Be familiar with Renovation Method as described.
  • Prune to increase quality or yield of flowers.
  • Prune to thin branching structure but retain shape.
  • Prune to direct and control growth of fast growing materials.
  • Maintain plant health by removing dead, diseased, or injured wood.
  • Prune to promote strong branching structure.
  • Remove dried seed pods that haven’t fallen to the ground on appropriate species.
  • Use the Two-Step Naturalistic Approach-see Figure A.
  • Use bypass hand pruners, loppers, or hand saws properly sharpened to promote quick healing of pruning wounds.
  • Allow shrubs and groundcovers to fill spaces and cover the ground, to maximize appearance of vegetation and blooms, so our urban environments are more attractive.


  • Shear shrubs with power tools or hedgers.
  • Remove more than 1/5th (20%) of shrub foliage on a regular basis.
  • Create formal or geometric shapes such as cubes or balls.
  • Prune shrubs or groundcovers when they are blooming.
  • Use dull blades that could tear or shred branches.

Approved Pruning Tools

  1. Hand pruners such as bypass pruners, with 2 cutting edges to remove branches less than ½” diameter.
  2. Hans saw- to remove branches over 1” diameter.
  3. Power equipment operated by trained personnel when appropriate for the situation.

We can handle any project! Contact us for a quote today.

Contact us today for a quote on all your landscaping needs at (480) 821-4966 or

The book used for training our employees in Sustainable Landscape Management (SLM) is Sustainable Landscape Management by Janet L. Waibel landscape architect and certified arborist. Also, all landscapers receive ALCA SLM training.

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