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Carpenter Costin Blog

What’s the Best Time to Prune Flowering Trees & Shrubs?

New England is home to some of the most diverse and naturally beautiful types of trees across our country. From flowering Dogwoods, to towering Maples and blooming Cherry trees, we have quite the spectacular array of trees in our region. The species, size, and care of these trees varies so much that many homeowners are not aware of the best time to prune the trees they have right in their own backyard. 

Our Certified Arborists and Landscape Design Architects can help homeowners not only understand the trees and shrubs they have on their property, but also how and when to properly prune them for the results they desire. 

What is Pruning? 

Pruning a tree or shrub is the selective and careful removal of certain parts of a tree, plant, or shrub. Often when one thinks about pruning they think about removal of branches, roots, or even the buds. 

The whole purpose of this action is to help improve the health of the tree and encourage growth that may have been harmed by dead, infected, or storm-damaged branches. In general, pruning is meant to improve the aesthetic of the tree as well as the overall aesthetic of the landscaping. 

Pruning is slightly different from trimming in that pruning is done for the health of the tree or shrub, while trimming tends to be completed in order to shape and determine the size of a planting. 

Luciano Pruning W Pole Navy Yard 2

Pruning Timetable

The timing and frequency of pruning differs according to the plant, tree species, and your intended result. For instance, do you want to remove dead, diseased or damaged branches? Do you want to encourage growth? Or conversely, do you hope to dwarf the growth? 

All of these things must be taken into consideration when determining a pruning timetable. Check out our article regarding pruning for shade trees, ornamental trees, and shrubs

Spring pruning is aimed at improving flowering trees and shrubs. Spring is also a good time to remove any branches that may have been damaged during fall or winter storms. It’s a great time for an arborist to examine the tree for any decay or potential pest issues. 

Our arborists suggest that an ideal time to prune spring blooming trees is right after the bloom or show. This way gardeners or homeowners can visually enjoy the early blooms and then take care of the pruning. This particular timing gives the tree a chance to initiate new buds for the next season. 

Some examples of spring blooming trees and shrubs include: Dogwood trees, Forsythia bushes, Rhododendron, Maple trees, Cherry trees, and Lilacs. All beautiful additions to any landscaping, but all need annual care. Regular pruning can not only help the health of these trees and shrubs, but also improve their shape for the growing season. 

The amount of pruning needed is determined by the current condition of the tree or shrub. For instance, if the planting is fairly overgrown or has lost its shape, more serious pruning may need to take place in order to rejuvenate the tree. 

A Final Word

Spring is the busy season for pruning flowering trees and shrubs. While pruning can, and does, take place throughout the year on many different species of trees, this is the best time to get started reclaiming the health and overall aesthetic of the trees and shrubs in your yard. 




Kelp Treatment For Your Trees!

A New Way To Promote Healthy Trees & Shrubs

Treat Your Trees With Kelp!

Are your trees and shrubs looking stressed from the weather we have been having? Are they not blooming or vibrant in color like they used to? Consider an all-natural bio-stimulant treatment to boost growth and to promote optimal health. A soil drench of our kelp treatment can help add over 50 vitamins and minerals. Kelp contains almost every micro-nutrient in a fully chelated (immediately available) form. The algae is also full of carbohydrates, which plants use as building blocks of plant cells and are essential for plant growth. We only use the kelp species Ascophyllum nodosum, which is found only in the Atlantic Ocean. This species of kelp is known to contain the highest concentrations of micro-nutrients (magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, etc...), and is the most desirable kelp used in the organic plant health industry.

The Kelp Process

How can you spray, inject or drench a plant with Kelp? Good question! What happens is that the kelp is collected from the Atlantic Ocean which is then washed to remove salt, and then it is dried and turned into a powder. This powder is then used to create a liquid that we are able to spray, inject and drench with. Kelp has naturally occurring plant growth hormones known as gibberellins and cytokines. These hormones help promote a variety of benefits for plants. The kelp is harvested in a responsible manner and due to kelp's growth rate it is a highly renewable and ample source. Growth enhancement has been attributed to the presence of plant growth regulators (plant hormones). Ascophyllum is loaded with auxin, growth stimulants and amino acids – all of which help promote root growth and build cell wall strength. Kelp Treatment is administered throughout the year to optimize the benefits.

Kelp Treatment

Benefits of Kelp (seaweed extract)

Kelp's many benefits include an effective method proven helpful in combating plant stress. Seaweed extract is a good source of potassium, and contains the many micro-nutrients that plants need for optimal health. Kelp will also help promote root growth and build cell wall strength. Why is cell wall strength important? Strong cell walls resist disease, ward off insects, and retain water more effectively. All these improvements promote chlorophyll production, cell division and elongation and increase cell wall permeability. Seaweed extract is valued for its ability to encourage trees and shrubs to more effectively draw nutrients from soil and fertilizers. As an example of the enhancement; compare drinking out of a coffee stir for a long period of time and then suddenly you're given a normal straw. The amount of flow and volume is increased exponentially. The kelp is a soil conditioner that also stimulates the soils bacteria which increases the fertility of the soil and also moisture retention. The cation exchange capacity (CEC) can be improved increasing the likelihood of nutrients being grabbed. After your plants receive the Kelp Treatment you will likely see your plants have darker green foliage, larger more compact root system, increased flower production and enhanced color and bloom over a period of time. It’s best to keep plants in vigorous state of health so they are able to fight off insects, disease and maintain their optimal health.

List of benefits from using our Kelp Treatment Program:

  1. Promotes plant growth and vigorous root system
  2. Increases the ability to tolerate and recover from stress
  3. Increases cell wall permeability
  4. Increases translocation of water
  5. Stimulates cell division and elongation
  6. Promotes chlorophyll production
  7. Larger root system
  8. Darker green foliage
  9. Increase flower production
  10. Enhance color and bloom
  11. Advantageous for new transplants
  12. Fruit less prone to softening and grow larger

We provide the applications up to three visits yearly. Call us to help increase your tree and shrubs ability to tolerate and recover from stress.

If you have any questions, or you are interested in any of our tree services, please contact us at 877-308-8733, or request a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you! Request Kelp Treatment Appointment

Request Kelp Treatment

Are Your Plants Overgrown?

Over-Planting on Property

Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was customary for home builders to over plant their house lots with evergreens. Now those Rhododendrons or Arborvitaes may be towering over, smothering, or just plain hiding your home.

One option is to cut all those evergreen plants down and startshrub-pruning-service over with new, smaller plants. Another idea is to cut back and prune those out-of-control shrubs so they fit into the desired space. The best option would be to conduct yearly pruning to keep your plants from overgrowing their spots and covering your home, deck, patio, and fence. This would ensure optimal health and aesthetics.

Six tips to help you tame your out-of-control plants and shrubs:

  1. Prune annually to keep plants contained to their site
  2. Prune after blooming for the best crop of flowers next spring
  3. Cut back new, ‘leggy’ growth for a neater appearance
  4. Prune to separate and define plants
  5. Thin overgrown shrubs and ornamental trees to improve light and air circulation
  6. Don’t attempt this if you are not sure what you are doing, it is easy to damage your plants

You’ll be amazed at the difference a little pruning will make to your property.

Need some help? Give us a call at 877-308-8733, or request a free consultation, and we’ll send an arborist out to meet with you to discuss your pruning needs.


Are Your Plants Out of Control?

Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was customary for home builders to overplant house lots with evergreens.  Now those Rhododendrons or Arborvitaes may be towering over, smothering or just plain hiding your home.

One option is to cut all those evergreen plants down and start over with smaller plants.  Another idea is to cut back and prune those out-of-control shrubs so they fit into the desired space. Yearly pruning will keep your plants from overgrowing their spots and covering your home.

How to Tame Out-of-Control Plants

  • Prune annually to keep plants contained to their site
  • Prune after blooming for the best crop of flowers next spring
  • Cut back new, ‘leggy’ growth for a neater appearance
  • Prune to separate and define plants
  • Thin overgrown shrubs and ornamental trees to improve light and air circulation
  • Don’t attempt this if you are not sure what you are doing, it is easy to damage your plants

You’ll be amazed the difference a little pruning can do to make your property look fantastic.

Need some help? Contact us and we’ll send an arborist out to meet with you for a free consultation.

Pruning Timing Depends on Pruning Goals

pruningWhile it's true that most pruning can be done at any time of year, your pruning goals dictate when a shrub or tree should be pruned.

Size Control of Non-Flowering Shrubs

When pruning shrubs such as Yews, Holly, Juniper, Privet, Arborvitae or Burning Bush, the best time to prune is just after the initial flush of growth.  Bud break occurs on most shrubs in April or May based on temperature and rainfall.  Immediately following the opening of the buds, the shrubs explode with new growth.  This growing period subsides with summer heat and reduced rainfall.  It's at this time, late June to early July, that pruning begins, removing the excessive growth that can cause shrubs to outgrow their intended space.  Later in the summer, usually around September, a ‘touch up’ pruning is done to control the limited growth that occurs in the hot summer months.  This second pruning helps maintain a neat appearance during dormant months.

It should be noted that shearing of shrubs, other than hedges, is not an accepted practice by horticulturalists.    

Spring Flowering Shrubs

There are two main goals in pruning flowering shrubs:

  1. To maintain the shrub within its intended site
  2. To promote maximum flower display

The timing for pruning shrubs such as Viburnum, Honeysuckle, Forsythia, Potentilla and Weigela, is after they flower.  These types of shrubs produce flower buds later in the summer for next year’s blossoms.  Late June or July is the appropriate time to prune such plants to maximize the next year’s flowers.

Large Leaved Rhododendrons

rhododendronLarge leaved Rhododendrons should never be sheared.  Shearing damages the leaves, causing unsightly brown cut margins.  Also, shearing creates a dense outer crown that does not allow light and airflow to easily reach the inside of the shrub’s crown.  Shearing definitely increases insect and disease activity in all shrubs, especially Rhododendrons.

Carpenter Costin hand prunes all large leaved Rhododendrons, maintaining a natural appearance, while maintaining the size of the plant within its intended space.  Rhododendrons are pruned shortly after flowering, which usually occurs sometime in late June.

It should be noted that plant development does not occur based on our calendar, but rather on daily temperature, called ‘Degree Days Heating.’

Summer Flowering Shrubs

blue hydrangeaAs with other flowering shrubs, pruning shortly after flowering is the best time.  Shrubs such as Clethra, Spirea, Rose of Sharon, and Hydrangea flower later in the season.  Summer flowers are produced on the new wood/shoots and develop in the same calendar year.  Hence, pruning too early will remove flowers getting ready for this year’s display. 

Our Strategy

At Carpenter Costin Landscape Management we plan for 3 separate prunings each season targeting specific shrubs.  The timing of our target pruning dates is completely dictated by the shrub’s development and species.  (We monitor Degree Day Heating through the University of Massachusetts for a variety of purposes).

First Pruning

As we can all see, large leaved Rhododendrons are in bloom right now.  I estimate that these shrubs will be pruned at the end of June, just after their flowers fall.

Second Pruning

Spring and early summer shrubs are either flowering now or have just passed flowering.  Pruning of these shrubs and the first pruning of non-flowering shrubs will occur approximately 4 weeks from now, or early July.  This timing will assure that we get the most out of our spring and early summer flowering shrubs and get the best flower development for next year’s blossoms.

Also, the initial growth spurt will be behind us for non-flowering shrubs, allowing for a longer period of time with a managed shape.

Third Pruning

Late summer pruning, to ‘touch up’ the almost certain additional growth of non-flowering shrubs, and the proper pruning time for summer flower shrubs, is September.

Spring Flowers Require Pruning

Flowering Plants Require Summer Pruning

Craig pruning 2011 resized 600Ask an arborist when the best time to prune your trees and shrubs and he’ll tell you ‘when the saw is sharp.’ For most plants this is true but others have a specific pruning schedule.

Pruning Flowering Shrubs & Ornamental Trees

Flowering shrubs and ornamental trees have completed their flowering for the year by end of May and will soon develop buds for next year's blossoms.

Flowering Shrubs

  • Rhododendrons
  • Lilac
  • Azalea 

Ornamental Trees

  • Dogwood
  • Crabapple
  • Hawthorn 

These plants should be pruned right after they bloom for the best crop of flowers next spring. If you wait until late fall when buds have already set, you will be removing next season’s flowers.

Pruning Mistakes with Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Pruning is beneficial for all trees and shrubs but timing is crucial depending on the tree or shrub. we have a wide variety of different trees and plants in our area so be sure to ask an arborist when the best time to prune your specific trees and plants is. Be sure to check out our "Why Prune your Trees and Shrubs" post where it will go into detail why pruning is something you should always consider with trees and plants on your property.

Late May into early June is also the perfect time to prune your hedges back into shape. ‘Leggy’ growth will appear at this time of year on Hemlocks, Yews, Privet, Juniper, and Arborvitae. Bring them back into shape by hand pruning the long spindly branches. Reduction of plant height will help maintain strong stems and help protect them from snow damage. It’s also a good time to prune out deadwood and broken branches for healthy, attractive plants.

Don’t procrastinate. Give us a call to arrange a property review with one of our arborists and keep your plants blooming beautifully. 877.308.8733

Tips for Protecting Shrubs in the Winter

Keep your shrubs safe from winter elements with these simple winter shrub care tips.

If you ensure your shrubs make it through the winter damage-free, you’ll be preventing many landscape-associated headaches come spring time. The main threats for shrub damage in the winter include wind damage, snow-weight damage, and salt damage. protect shrubs in winter

Wind Damage

The cold winter wind is capable of excessively drying out the shrubs that maintain their foliage in the winter. The drying process occurs through transpiration of the water within the shrub’s foliage, and is also known as desiccation. To protect your shrubs from drying out, you can apply anti-desiccant liquid to all your broad leaf evergreen shrubs.

Wrapping your shrubs in burlap, or creating a burlap screen, will also help protect your shrubs from damaging winds.

Snow Damage

Depending on which New England winter shows up (100” season like 2010 or hardly a dusting like 2011); your shrubs could potentially be damaged by heavy snowfall, and the placement of snow by shovels, snow blowers, and plows. The weight of heavy snow alone can be enough to damage shrubs. Compounding that weight by clearing snow from your walkways, driveways, decks, and patios onto your shrubs can cause serious harm. If possible, try to limit the amount of snow weight on your shrubs, especially the younger, less established ones.

Salt Damage

The salt that is used to melt snow and ice is another threat to your shrubs in the winter. Salt acts as an herbicide and can seriously damage or kill the shrubs in its path. There is very little you can do for your shrubs that line the streets that are salted by the town or state; however, on your own driveways and walkways, try to limit the amount of salt used near your shrubs, as it will have a negative impact on their health. If you are experiencing salt damage year after year, you should consider planting a salt-tolerable variety of shrub. Burlapping may help protect from salt damage slightly; however, it is very possible that salt will penetrate the burlap.

If you can limit the damage that the wind, snow, and salt cause to your shrubs in the winter, you’ll be much happier with your landscape come spring. It is also a wise idea to have an Arborist inspect the shrubs and trees on your property before winter hits to ensure everything is in a safe, healthy condition.

(Image by Clementina - Wikimedia Commons)

The Value of Professional Plant Health Care Programs

Comprehensive plant health care programs will keep your property’s trees and shrubs healthy year round, and ensure your landscape is adding optimal value to your property.

Plant health care programs comprise of multiple visits and treatments aimed at improving and plant health care programmaintaining the health and appeal of a landscape. Effective plant health care programs utilize proactive treatments to control and prevent insects, diseases, and other unwanted items in the landscape. Having a trained professional on your property multiple times in a growing season for inspections will also mitigate any other health and safety risks in the landscape.

Plant Health Care Overview

A comprehensive plant health care program will provide your trees and shrubs with the protection it needs from unwanted insects and diseases, while also providing valuable fertilizers to ensure your landscape gets the nutrients it needs. A professional plant health care vendor will offer a complete program that inspects and treats for:

  • Winter Moth
  • Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
  • Aphids
  • Lacebugs
  • Scale
  • Cankerworm
  • Anthracnose
  • Tip Blight
  • Needle Blight
  • Apple Scab
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Leaf Spot

In addition to pest management and fertilization, winter protection and wilt proofing can be included to provide complete year round protection.

Delivering Value in Plant Health Care

In order to get the most value out of your Plant Health Care programs, you must work with a professional firm - with certified and trained technicians - who are licensed to handle pesticides. Choosing to work with a firm that is not certified is a risk you do not want to take, regardless of the price of their programs or treatments.

Also, ensure your vendor offers flexible programs, with great communication. Not only will it be helpful to know what has been treated after a visit, but it is also important to receive notification before treatments. This will ensure that your treatments do not interfere with any outdoor activity you have planned.

Keeping the trees and shrubs on your property in tip-top shape will help ensure you draw the maximum value out of your landscape. Investing in a plant health care program will also help you avoid severe pest damage that may require removal, which usually requires a much greater investment. Click below for a free plant health care consultation.


plant health care treatments

Always choose a vendor with trained, licensed professionals.

Tree and Shrub Fertilizer: Surface vs. Subsurface Applications

Discover the differences between granular surface fertilizer and subsurface liquid fertilizer, and find out which method is best for your trees and shrubs.

Fertilizing trees and shrubs in the fall is vital for optimal tree health and growth. Fall is the best time to fertilize trees and shrubs, as they are putting extra effort into root development – rather than flower or leaf development. Adding extra nutrients will only help the trees and shrubs develop stronger root systems, which helps promote long term health and appeal.  There are two main types of tree and shrub fertilizer applications that can be used in the fall: subsurface and surface fertilizers.subsurface tree fertilizer

Subsurface liquid fertilizers are applied through injections, and are injected directly into the root zone to ensure fast action from the fertilizer. Liquid fertilizer injections require fairly complex equipment and should only be completed by trained professionals. One drawback of subsurface fertilizer injection is that you can actually inject the fertilizer too deeply – effectively missing the root zone and rendering the fertilizer useless.

Although subsurface injections can be great when done properly, granular surface fertilizer is a wiser choice for homeowners. Granular fertilizer spread liberally through shrub beds and around the base of trees can be every bit as effective as (or more effective than) subsurface injections. Granular applications are less expensive than subsurface liquid injections, and often times they produce better results.

Fertilization of trees and shrubs in the fall is always a good idea for established, mature trees and shrubs; however, it is imperative to fertilize newly planted or transplanted specimens. Fall is an important time for root development, and young (or recently relocated) trees and shrubs can really use the added nutrients to help establish a strong root system.

To learn more about fertilization, request a free consultation with one of our plant health care specialists.


Summertime Watering of Your Shrubs and Plants

Remember to properly water your shrubs and plants this summer to avoid damage from dry soil and hot temperatures.

Watering shrubs and plants cannot be forgotten during the summertime, period! This holds especially true if they have been planted this year or last year. The plentiful rains of spring usually end by mid-June and from then on, the homeowner is responsible for the irrigation of the property’s trees and shrubs. This can be done by adding a professional irrigation system with drip-irrigation; or a well placed garden hose. It doesn’t matter which route you decide to follow – just be sure you’re watering!

During the summer, a deep watering of shrubs and plants once a week is necessary. This can be accomplished simply by putting a garden hose on low and letting it rest around the base of the shrub or plant for a few minutes, allowing the water to slowly penetrate the soil and sink deep into the root system. Doing this should keep the soil around the shrub moist enough for the week and help ensure that the shrub remains healthy throughout the summer. Be sure not to have the water pressure too high as it will just run off, especially if the soil is very dry. Remember, this is extremely important for newly planted or transplanted shrubs!

When watering, always abide by your town’s water restrictions. Drought conditions can be tough on plants, but you still need to follow the regulations. If you give your shrubs and plants a deep watering once a week, they'll come through summer healthy and looking great.

summer watering shrubs

Though complex drip irrigation may be the best and most convenient watering solution; a simple garden hose can be your shrub's ally in the summer.

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