Here is our hydrangea after I majorly whacked it back in August 2009. It's branches were growing over into the stone pathway along the side of our house.
I found that the clips and stake from when this plant was bought from the nursery were still attached. So I removed them. It would have been hard to see back in the summer when the branches were so leafy. It was easy to do now.
Believe it or not the bush below still had blooms (dead) hanging on from the summer. I got to work clipping them off. I cut off each dead bloom just right above where the first live leaves were forming.
See, here, though, those first live leaves were snug up against the dead bloom. I was careful not to harm the babies as I snipped the dead away.
The pile of damage.