Q: We have ten-foot tall ‘Burford’ hollies planted very close to our house. They are very difficult to keep pruned so we would like to know how short they could be cut back and not risk killing them. If we cut them back to four feet they would not have any foliage left.
A: You run little risk of killing a ‘Burford’ holly by pruning it, no matter how severe. My advice is to do moderate pruning now, just to get the limbs off the house, and do severe pruning in mid-March. At that time you can prune each plant down to twelve inches tall. Vigorous sprouts will occur within a month. When a sprout is twelve inches long, clip one inch off the tip. This will cause the twig to re-branch, making a more compact shrub. Continue clipping all twelve-inch twigs for two years. You’ll then have short, compact shrubs that can be pruned as needed (sometimes monthly) to keep them at the correct height.