I have a few American Holly trees (I think that's what they are) that my landscaper cut all the way down, almost to the trunk. Is this how you would normally trim this tree?

I don't think this was right but thought I would check here to make sure. My guess is that tear drop shape trim is the most you would ever want to do. I think they will look bare for a while, then like little green popsicles for a while longer, before ever looking like real trees again. Am I wrong? Pictured below are two of the trimmed trees. The crepe myrtle in the middle I am not worried about.

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Here is what these trees used to look like:

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1 Answer 1


You are correct, this is not a professional or appropriate pruning job by any stretch. You can't take that opinion to court, but a certified arborist perhaps could.

One good pruning guideline is to remove no more than a third of the foliage in any one year. (Pollarding is an exception, but is quite a specific way to prune a highly domesticated tree, and one that requires annual maintenance.) Another useful and relevant pruning guideline that was broken is to cut branches only at junctions, not mid-stem.

The branches that may eventually sprout from the blunt cuts will never have strong attachments to the trunk. When I see trees that have been "topped" as these have, the analogy of the tree being relegated to a wheelchair for the rest of its life comes to mind. With the possible exception of especially young and vigorous plants, this kind of damage can't ever entirely be undone.

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    I totally agree! This is almost criminal. Do you happen to have recent before pictures? I'd think about asking your "landscaper" to replace at least the crepe myrtle as I would suspect you did not authorise or request such pruning. If it were my yard that crew would be fired and I'd be asking around the local plant community for some recommendations of skilled professionals. This looks like a job by somebody who bought a bunch of power tools and knows nothing about plants.
    – Ben
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 13:46
  • Seeing a before picture will make you sad... or extremely mad. I added it to the original post. I tried to keep my original post level-headed but when I came home and saw what he had done I layed into the landscaper pretty hard. I think I scared all of the neighbors. Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 13:59
  • What was the landscaper's thinking?! Anyway, I will tell you that the American Holly is robust and you have a good chance of it coming back strong next year. If you can give the Holly time to come back you will be surprised.
    – CloneZero
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:14
  • The crepe myrtle will be fine , in some areas that is standard annual pruning ( not my style). I would be concerned about the hollies, but all you an do is give them time, they may recover. Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 15:19
  • @blacksmith37 - For the annual buzz cut on some local crape myrtles, pollarding, no? Interesting - thx. Never knew crape myrtles were popular among some people for pollarding.
    – InColorado
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 17:09

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