If you've got tired, old, sagging shrubs, don't tear them out! Because they have such extensive root systems, established old shrubs often become glorious specimens if you prune them thoughtfully, replace old mulches with new material, and give them a nice pick-me-up that cleans old stems and leaves, and washes off little pests that may be hiding in the foliage.
To prune 'em back into shape, it's best to adopt a kind, patient approach. Every year for 3 years running, cut out one-third of the branches. You will probably need a pruning saw to do this, because you want to cleanly sever old branches deep inside the plants. That's right—whole limbs will come out, but only one-third of the total count. In the second year, you will already see lots of new growth, eager for the room you're about to create with your pruning saw. By the third (and final) rejuvenation pruning, you'll be taking out only old wood, which will now be in close proximity to lots of vigorous new branches.
My Super Shrub Restorer is just the ticket for perking up those old shrubs and getting them started on their way to a robust new life.
Super Shrub Restorer:
1 can of beer,
1 cup of ammonia,
1/2 cup of liquid dish soap, and
1/2 cup of molasses or clear corn syrup.
Mix all of these ingredients in your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer. Drench shrubs thoroughly, including the undersides of leaves, where little critters often hide. If you have some left over, spray it on your trees and lawn, too.
Problem: My holly bushes look sick. The older leaves are dark green, but most of the newer ones are light green with yellowish spots. What kind of disease causes this problem, and what should I do about it?
Solution: Your hollies aren't diseased; they're just growing in soil that's too sweet for their liking. Either your soil is not naturally acidic, or you got a little too close to your bushes with lime. If hollies don't have a pH below 6.5, they can't take up iron from the soil, which makes them look yellow. The same thing sometimes happens with azaleas, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons. As a quick fix, spray your bushes with Liquid Iron (follow the label directions), and dust a little sulfur onto the soil beneath your plants. Top it with chopped leaves or pine straw, and you should start seeing new growth that's deep, holly green.