Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Rejuvenation Pruning Lifts Hearts

A family rejuvenate pruning and overgrown foundation planting along a brick-faced house.

Hello fellow readers; Rejuvenation pruning lifts hearts, including mine, as I joined a lifelong friend and her grown sons to rejuvenate overgrown shrubs and renew their gardens. I hope you enjoy the story.

It’s always fun to have a new hairdo, as has my friend Michele, who lives in Sparta, New Jersey. She was sporting a new do when I arrived to help rejuvenate her front shrubs. They’ve been there 28 years, I believe. It was Earth Day and Michele’s birthday, so I arrived with a columnar Rose of Sharon. ‘White Pillar’ grows about 10 to 16 feet high and is only 4 to 5 feet wide and will look lovely anchoring the right side of the rear deck stairs.

a young man in a red ball cap rolling up his sleeves to plant lavender.

Michael Schiumo masterfully digging in.

Her grown sons I’ve known since day one, helped, choosing their tools of choice. Matthew, the younger son, at the wheel of the chainsaw, and Michael, I still call Mikey with permission, excelled at dividing the Stella D’Oro Daylilies, planting them in the newly created portion of the back garden. And he dug in the lovely lavender his mom bought. I smiled because when I placed them and asked if she wanted them dug in, Michele asked,  “Shouldn’t we place them first?”

I explained a random pattern rather than a lineup is intentional, as Mother Nature would do. She quickly approved the placement. It took longer to convince Michele to do the significant cutting of the Andromeda, overwhelming the stairs. She was worried about the outcome looking like a bunch of sticks. And it does for now.

“What inspired you for your new hairdo?” (A beautiful chin-like bob and blonder than before).

“I wanted something brighter and new.”


a young man on a front stairway rejuvenating pruning an overgrown andromeda.

Matthew Schiumo – The King of the Loppers

Rejuvenation pruning Andromeda 

Matthew suggested rather than the extreme rejuvenation pruning, we should tackle it so that the garden looks good within a year. He was anxious to use the chainsaw, but I coached him that loppers would allow more random cuts and varying heights to make the plants look more natural. By the end, he declared himself the King of the Loppers.

Rather than cut Andromeda like the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG)suggests— to a foot above the ground after the blooms are spent. We pruned the plants about a foot below the railings so that plenty of leaves would be dressing the now-naked plant as the growing season unfolds.

Hopefully, Michele will be happy with the new haircut. I think she was in shock when I left. Per NYBG, everything will return to normal after a year. There, there Michele. Think of it as removing the old wood from our lives.

Attacking the Prickly Barberry Beasts 

I wish we could remove the barberry in the front foundation planting, but the prickly beasts remain. Birds love the berries causing the plant to overrun the woodlands and are now invasive. That’s why we don’t plant barberries anymore. I allowed Matthew to attack them with the chainsaw. Then I carefully pruned stems randomly to tidy them up.

We didn’t prune her stick-ly Rhododendron; deer severely browse the PJMs. I suggest they prune them after their blooms fade. A big-leafed variety, maybe Native Rhododendron, was primarily spared, perhaps protected behind a Weigelia.

Why Rejuvenation Pruning works particularly well on Rhododendrons
Leggy Rhododendron needing to be rejuvenated by pruning.

Rhododendrons have a unique trait making them easy to rejuvenate and prune.

Rejuvenation pruning works particularly well on Rhododendrons because of a unique trait. They have tiny pink pinhead dots called latent buds that pepper the surface of older branches. These latent buds will sprout a new framework of branching. Prune above a cluster of latent buds rather than above just one bud to encourage multiple stems. Not to worry if you make a mistake, as Rhododendrons are very forgiving.

Before I arrived, Michele worked in her garden and cut back the butterfly bushes as I’ve always coached — about a foot to foot and a half staggering the stems. Other shrubs I rejuvenate prune in spring by cutting them to half their size are the Little Princess Japanese Spiraea (Spirea japonica) and Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa). Like Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia), they bloom on new wood so we won’t miss out on the flower this season.

Michele’s butterfly bush is old and used to overcome the walkway. It’s already pushing out new growth from the roots. See that even those of us that are mature can sprout new shoots of growth—rejuvenation rocks.

Garden Dilemmas? And your favorite Podcast App.

A selfie of Mary Stone with two young men Matthew and Michael Schiumo.

I’ve known Michael (R) & Matthew (L) since Day-one.

a group of mostly women in restaurant kicking up their heals celebrating Michele Schiumo' s 6oth Birthday.

Celebrating Michele Schiumo’s Milestone Birthday-2022

There’s a heartfelt part of the story. Michele’s husband passed away unexpectantly two years ago. I thanked the boys for their hard work and asked if they enjoyed helping their dad with yard work. It was clear by their response they did.

“I loved seeing when he’d stand back at the end of the day looking at the garden with such happiness, which made me happy too.”

I am sure their dad is proud of his family and is smiling down from above.

There’s much more to the story in the Garden Dilemma’s Podcast:

Related Stories You’ll Enjoy:

Reasons to Prune – features the story of my viburnum riddled with aphids and the solution of  Beneficial Ladybugs

How to Rejuvenate Prune Rhododendron


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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