Last summer above - Russian Sage w/ purple blooms, local Chihuahuan Desert native Mariola w/ creamy flowers, and a Smooth Prickly Pear / Opuntia subarmata between. He tried lifting up the sage...an oops.
I missed a better view of the cactus, 10 years old, 7' across, and some nasty freeze damage from the last 4-5 winters...ignored.
No drip irrigation, just rare hand watering / between 4"-18" of rain / year since 1999. (2/3 of that July-Sept) Not overgrown or leggy from overwatering; it would be much worse if overwatered.
And more well-intentioned savagry closer-up, but no cactus.
His entire front area, all the plant abuse. In this case, savagry actually took more time than what needed to be done.
I caught him this toasty Thursday morning. And guess what we did...he actually listened. (most don't)
Be bold,and mighty things will happen to you (and your plants). That's 4 cubic yards of Russian Sage and Mariola branches. Plus 1 cubic yard (100+ pounds) of Prickly Pear; I took some of the live pads that were removed. I have this large pot out front...
Sorry, I again forgot to photograph how ugly the cactus or woody shrubs were before!
Vigorous woody shrubs and large perennials (Mariola, Russian Sage):
+ Cut all the way to the ground every few years, if leggy
+ Do that in late winter, no later than easrly spring
Winter-damaged or leggy Prickly Pear Cactus (also vigorous):
+ Remove all dead or damaged pads (stems, actually)
+ Remove all crossing or severely drooping pads
+ Balance plant from growth and important view angles
+ Carefully remove more horizontal growth and sprawl than vertical, to encourage a fuller, taller plant
+ Leave some volunteer plants to soften
(here, soft was some Mexican Feathergrass; the remains of a Thompson Yucca, that decided to grow back from the roots after it suddenly died back years ago are not so soft, and will soon dominate the area with tall, spreading spiky sculpture, probably better than the original plant)
Notice how the first 4 points sound like how to properly prune trees - by the time one removes dead branches or stems and crossing branches, the rest of the pruning process is often minimal and simple.
Compare an unpruned Russian Sage to his former lifted ones. Best to leave alone, if not bold enough to do what's needed.
Cactus reduced to the strongest growth, to produce nicer pads, more flowers and fruit (tunas). Woody plants cut back to grow and flower more vigorously from the roots. All new, again! Stay tuned in May and June.