There are two main choices of how to present the landscaping around a home: grow the plants naturally, trimming shrubs and trees only to keep them at a manageable size; or maintain the plants, trimming them into well-manicured shapes. Most bushes typically are shaped into a rounded form, which give the landscaping a softer appearance. Bushes can easily be shaped to your preference with a little patience and the proper tools.
Cut out dead limbs before starting the shaping. Removing dead branches might change the overall shape of the bush, and because they have to be removed, it is best to do it first. Cut the dead limbs back into the bush, using loppers. Locate a point where the branch has green vegetation, and then go back 2 or 3 more inches. Snip the branch just in front of a leaf or stem. If the entire branch is dead, cut it back to the main trunk or stem.
Trim the top stems of the bush to establish its height. Make cuts just above a leaf or stem that is branching off the one being trimmed. Make cuts at a slight angle.
Snip branches just out from the top. Cut these slightly further into the bush to create a slope to the bush. Continue trimming, creating a slant from the top, until reaching halfway to the side edges of the bush.
Make cuts along the sides to even up any branches that are sticking out further than the others. Once the sides are smooth, start trimming the sides slightly inward, working toward the top of the shrub. You eventually will meet up with the slope that was created coming down from the top.
Step back from the bush every so often to see the bush from a distance. This will help detect glaring errors or needs.
If you want a particular shape, start training the shrub from its early years. A shrub can be rounded later on, but it might be larger than you would like it to be.
Keith Dooley has a degree in outdoor education and sports management. He has worked as an assistant athletic director, head coach and assistant coach in various sports including football, softball and golf. Dooley has worked for various websites in the past, contributing instructional articles on a wide variety of topics.