Let’s say you have a nice Juniper bush in your front yard that you have faithfully trimmed a number of times each year to keep its shape, but now you are considering a change. If you do not want to dig it out and put something new, just change the shape of the one you have. You can DO IT!
First of all, you will want to be sure that your juniper bush is at least two years old so that the root system is well established. These are hardy plants, but you can kill them by shocking a new plant. You first task is to decide what kind of shape you would like to mold your juniper into. If this is your first time, I suggest something simple, perhaps a smaller version of the round bush that it was, sort of like tufts. If you are not too good at visualizing then it is a good idea to use a cardboard cutout in the size and shape that you want your juniper bush to be. Select the branches that you are going to use and the hold the cardboard cutout up to the juniper while making your cuts with a sharp trimming tool.
Depending on your area, you may want to avoid shapes that are flat on top, especially if you live in an area that receives any measurable amount of snowfall. A heavy snow could damage your juniper bush. Try to choose a shape that is wider on the bottom than on the top so that the lower parts of the plant are not deprived of necessary sunlight.When trimming your juniper, be sure to leave some green on the top portion of the plant so that your juniper is able to absorb the needed sunlight to recover from its heavy trim. Depending on the previous shape of your juniper, you may be able to leave some of the branches on the area to be reshaped. If not, you may need to go back for a second trim after the bush has recovered from the first one. When I trimmed my juniper, I was fortunate to have one that was several years old, about 20 year old to be exact, so I was able to complete a severe trim on the bush and have it recover nicely.
Timing can also be critical. On your first trim, do not remove more than 25% of the branches. You can do this first trim late in the summer and then finish the rest of the trim in the spring. To stimulate growth, you can use an organic fertilizer in the late fall through early spring. In spring you can then continue with your trimming project by removing another 25% of the branches so that you can get to the desired shape.
An older juniper can be very resilient. It you dare, you can try to do a severe trim, but be sure to leave some smaller branches on each larger branch you trimmed and do this kind of trimming in late fall or early spring. The risk here is that you may shock your bush and it might not come back. I have done it successfully twice now with my juniper and it has come back very nicely.
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