While you are at it, pull any unsightly weeds in the shrub border or foundation plantings.
Before beginning, check plants for the presence of stinging insects such as hornets, wasps or bees. It's much better to find them before they find you.
Spring flowering plants such as lilacs should be pruned after flowering.
Determine your purpose in trimming- examples include basic maintenance, rejuvenation, structural, for better flowering, containment in size, etc.
Identify the plants you are trimming. Look at how the plant material has been trimmed in the past. Unless you desire to change to either formal shearing or informal hand pruning it is simplest to continue to trim the shrubs in the same manner as they have been trimmed in the past.
Some shrubs only need trimming once a season, others may need attention 2 or 3 times, especially formally sheared shrubs and hedges.
Recommended tools and equipment for the work include tarps, blowers, ladders, hand pruners, shears and saws, electric or gasoline powered shears and saws, rakes and fuel for the blowers and other gasoline powered tools. Please do not refuel equipment on lawn areas, this will damage your turf. Be sure trimmers are sharp and in working order. If there are grease fittings make sure they are greased properly. Look at manufacture recommendations. Safety equipment: safety glasses and ear protection. Have a plan for debris disposal.
Shrub Trimming Tips
When shearing move slowly with the shears at full rpm. Do not be afraid to cut back plants fairly hard, but at the same time avoid cutting back into bare wood.
Rounded shrubs and hedges are easier to accomplish than straight lines and are preferable unless you want a very formal look.
Hedges should be trimmed and trained to be narrower at the top so that sunlight can reach the bottom of the plant as well.
Always take a step back to be sure you are producing a pleasing appearance with your trimming.
It is crucial to remove trimmings from the shrubs. Otherwise the trimmings left on evergreens will turn brown within a short period of time, thus giving the shrub the look that it is dying off.
Some deciduous shrubs can be rejuvenated by cutting some or all of the stems right back to the ground. This is best done early in the season. Potentilla and Spirea should be cut down to a height of 12" - 16". They generate growth quickly and as years pass they will not look woody and overgrown.