Sometimes a shrub is used for the purposes of screening or division between two properties. Homeowners can be horrified, says Vinet, at the thought of losing a privacy screen, no matter how temporary, when a hedge must be cut back. “It’s all about what you can stand,” says Vinet. “If the shrub is 80 per cent dead wood, you probably can’t stand that either, so bite the bullet!” Vinet says that once shrubs reach a certain age a significant amount of energy can be expended on maintaining deadwood — energy that should be directed to maintaining healthy growth. Renewal pruning done on a yearly basis is always easier than contemplating drastic size reduction although there are also ways to reduce size without doing anything drastic. Below are some recommendations for pruning and maintaining a natural yet manageable form for some of the most common shrubs. Barberry (Berberis) Undeterred by barberry’s sharp thorns, hungry rabbits sometimes do the pruning for us. Herbivores, rabbits are equipped with large front teeth called incisors that help them to grind down woody stems. Barberries respond well, fortunately, to severe pruning. So in this case don’t be too worried about how far down to cut. Clean up any chewed tips. Broken and dead branches should be removed as soon as possible and this, says Seniw and Vinet, should be done at any time of year on all shrubs. Hydrangea (Hydrangea) Vinet says hydrangeas, particularly the paniculata varieties, usually pose no difficulty in pruning. Not sure which type you have? If the flower is cone or panicle-shaped, you can be certain it is a paniculata. Examples include Limelight, Little Lamb, Pinky Winky, and Quick Fire. Wait for the third year before shaping newly installed hydrangea shrubs other than removing dried spent blooms and any dead branches. Once the plant is mature, it can be cut back by one-third or one-half in the early spring before the leaves open without affecting bloom production. If, at some point, bloom production slows or the shrub’s form needs to be improved, paniculata hydrangeas can be cut down almost to the ground in the early spring. The new healthy growth results in larger, more prolific blooms. Some of the repeat blooming hydrangeas, such as the Endless Summer series, are macrophylla type hydrangeas. These have round mophead flowers that bloom on old wood and new wood. This means that flower buds were set in the previous season and untimely spring pruning results in the plant failing to produce summer flowers. A light trimming and removal of blooms immediately after flowering is all that is needed. Hydrangea arborescens varieties such as Annabelle, Incrediball, and Invincibelle, should be pruned back in late winter or early spring. This encourages new growth which will produce summer’s flowers. Lilac (Syringa) All types of lilac are so lovely and delicate at time of purchase. Over time some varieties grow into imposing, impenetrable beasts. Siting plants in a location that accommodates its natural growth results in the healthiest plant. Continually shearing a lilac to reduce its size stresses both the plant and the homeowner. Seniw reminds homeowners that nothing in Mother Nature grows in a straight line. The buds of lilacs have already started to swell so any pruning will remove the chance of flowers. Seniw suggests thinning lilacs in early spring before flowering or growth starts. Missed that opportunity? Maximize next season’s blooms by pruning out any deadwood or scrappy looking twigs or branches that have only one bud. Remove flowers after they have faded.