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Pruning Evergreens

Summer is the ideal time to prune most evergreens. This includes both conifers like pine and spruce and broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons and boxwoods. The reasons are twofold.

First, the buds that produce new growth formed last fall on the old wood of many evergreens. New growth is the light green needles that appear at the ends of branches. If you prune while the new growth is still light green, it will grow back and you’ll have to prune again. If you wait until the new growth turns its natural shade of green, you’ll only have to prune once.

Second, pruning now gives the wounds sufficient time to heal before it’s time for next year’s new growth buds to form.

Most evergreen trees do not need as much pruning as deciduous trees. Evergreen trees are usually pruned to control size and to remove dead, dying or broken branches. Pruning evergreen trees is not a do-it-yourself job. Besides evergreen trees’ height, their branches are very “springy.” They can break easily if you try stepping on them. Leave pruning to our professionals. We value you as a customer and don’t want you to become a statistic.

Confine your pruning to evergreen shrubs. If you have coniferous shrubs like yews (taxus) or junipers, I recommend that you selectively prune, removing one branch at a time rather than shearing. When selectively pruning shrubs, follow the same rules as you would for a tree. Don’t leave stubs. Cut branches all the way back to a fork. If you can see a branch collar, leave it rather than cutting flush to the trunk or bigger branch.

Selectively pruned shrubs look better when they have a natural shape, rather than the tight geometrical shapes that result from shearing. Shearing also may leave ragged cuts because branches are too big around for shears to make a clean cut.

Save your shearing for such broadleaf evergreens as boxwoods. Boxwood branches are smaller so shears will leave cleaner cuts. I do caution, however, that shearing can become more difficult to maintain as the plant increases in size.

You don’t have to prune your own shrubs. Our professionals can care for them, just as they do your trees. By turning it over to the pros, you don’t have to make decisions like whether to shear or selectively prune. You also won’t have to dress in a long sleeve shirt, long pants and gloves on a hot summer day to keep from getting scratched by the needles and branches.

Evergreens look nice and add color to your yard, even in the dead of winter. However, their biology is very different from deciduous trees and require different care. To be sure they receive the proper care, leave the work to our professional arborists.

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