I like my shrubs clearly distinct from my trees. In my mind, trees are taller than me, have woody trunks and leafy canopies of branches, whereas shrubs are shorter than me and have foliage from their top to the ground. Okay, so they’re simplistic categories. In fact, the enormous lilac (shree? trub?) in my front yard stands defiantly against my orderly tree/shrub dichotomy. How should I respond to such an affront to my worldview? By removing the contradictory evidence, of course!
The lilac has 18 mature trunks ranging in diameter from 1.5? to 6?. The foliage is all very high up on branches that are as tall as the second story bedroom window. It is my plan to thin this lilac gradually over a few years. This week, I am removing dead limbs while there are still leaves to distinguish the green limbs.
The dead branches made quite a pile in my yard, but their removal didn’t noticably change the appearance of the lilac.
Some whole trunks of the lilac were dead, so I could cut those down to the ground. Others just had dead branches on green limbs, so I removed just the dead sections.
This March, I will prune a third of the lilac to remove the overgrown wood and encourage new growth from the ground and on remaining limbs. I will prune the remaining 2/3 of old wood over the next two winters until the lilac is all newer growth close to the ground.
There is a lilac hedge at the back edge of the yard that needs similar attention, perhaps I’ll get to that yet this fall as well.