Truck & Chipper W Tree in background


Are Your Plants Overgrown?

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 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.

The following six tips will help you tame your out-of-control plants:

  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, or request a free consultation, and we’ll send an arborist out to meet with you to discuss your pruning needs.


Shrub and Ornamental Pruning

Some people think that pruning is difficult, that plants will die if they're not pruned on a precise date, or that all pruning needs to be done in the winter. The reality is that pruning is necessary to keep plants healthy and that there is no one set time for pruning all types of trees and shrubs.

Why Prune?

Pruning should be done to:

  • Improve survival chances at planting time
  • Maintain or reduce plant size and shape
  • Remove dead, diseased, weak or broken branches
  • Stimulate flowering, fruiting or colored twig effect in certain plants

When to Prune?

Timing for pruning depends on your goals. If you want to slow growing you want to wait until the seasonal growth is complete. If you want to enhance flowering, prune spring blooms when their flowers fade and prune summer bloomers in winter or early spring.  You can read more about pruning timing here or you can download our guide for concise explanation of when and how often to prune ornamental trees, shrubs, and shade trees.

Just a little pruning can make a huge difference in the health of your plants as well as for your property's curb appeal. Need some help? Contact us and we’ll send an arborist out to meet with you for a free consultation.

Request a Free Consultation

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.

Faster and Safer Tree Work with our NEW Tracked Lift!

track lift resizedOur mission has always been to offer the best possible professional tree work, landscape design, and lawn care for our clients. We've been doing that for over 60 years and have some of the most delighted clients around. Now we can provide these services faster, safer, and more cost effectively. We're so excited for our newest piece of equipment, our Tracked Lift!

The tracked lift is so compact that it will fit thru a standard single door. The makeup of the lift allows us to move easily over soft, muddy or delicate finished surfaces without the damage that would be done by other types of wheeled equipment. It can even climb stairs!

Carpenter Costin will be using this beauty for things like:

  • Tree removal without climbing
  • Pruning large hedges without need for a ladder
  • Accessing yards that would otherwise be inaccessible because of fences and small gates

Track lift2 resizedLast week we had the perfect project for our new lift. Our client in Salem, MA had a large maple tree that was posing a hazard to a home with a slate roof. Not only do you want to avoid injury by having a tree fall on your house, but in this case it would be very expensive to repair or replace a slate roof! Like many properties in Salem, this home has a narrow driveway and two small garden gates for entry into the backyard. Without our new tracked lift, we wouldn't have been able to access the tree. Thanks to our new machine we were able to quickly and safely remove it for a much lower cost to the client.

We expect the tracked lift to be involved in a lot more projects going forward. If you have tree or yard work that needs to be done but thought it wouldn't be accessible, get in touch! We'll be happy to show this guy off!


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.

Storm Clean Up of Local Trees

Recent high winds have caused many trees to fall or to be severely damaged in our area.  Carpenter Costin crews have been called on to remove trees from houses, driveways, yards and to evaluate trees with structural damage such as cracked branches and leaders. 

A Certified Arborist is the best person to inspect your trees for hazardous or dangerous branches, or damage caused by wind, freezing and thawing temperatures, structural weakness or snow load.  Certified Arborists can educate and guide you, not just in emergency winter situations, but in the care and maintenance of all of your trees and shrubs throughout all four seasons. 

Massachusetts Certified Arborists and those certified by the International Society of Arboriculture are individuals who have achieved a level of knowledge in the art and science of tree care, through formal education, at least three years of experience and have passed a comprehensive examination. They are also required to continue their education in order to maintain their certification, ensuring their knowledge is updated on the latest arboriculture techniques.

Certified Arborists, years ago called tree surgeons, are trained to ­­­:

  • Recognize safety issues and make recommendations regarding structural problems in trees, such as weak branch unions, dangerous leaders, and other potentially hazardous concerns.
  • Evaluate the overall health of your trees and shrubs
  • Diagnose insect or disease problems and advise on treatment strategies
  • Avoid taking down trees that can be salvaged

Consulting with a Certified Arborist will give you the assurance that your trees are safe and healthy. 

For a complimentary evaluation of your trees and shrubs by a Certified Arborist, please give us a call at (877)308-8733.

Carpenter Costin's 10% Winter Discount on Tree Work continues through

March 30, 2013.

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Discover When and How Often to Prune Trees & Shrubs

View the tree & shrub pruning guide to discover the best timing and frequency of shrub and tree pruning.pruning guide

Pruning the various trees and shrubs throughout your property is critical to ensure their health, appeal, and safety. Understanding that pruning is crucial to the livelihood and attractiveness of your landscape is only half the battle. Knowing when and how frequently to prune the different varieties of trees and shrubs on your property will help make certain that your landscape stays in tip-top shape, and you enjoy all the beautiful flowering and fruiting of your various trees and shrubs.

This guide gives you a concise explanation of when and how often to prune:

  • Ornamental Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Shade Trees

Click below to view the guide. For questions about pruning, request a free pruning consultation with one of our Certified Arborists.

pruning guide cta

Prune Before Shrubs Grow Out of Control

Don’t wait until it’s too late; regular pruning is not only easier than restoration pruning, but it will ensure your shrubs look great every year!

Waiting too long to prune your shrubs can leave you with the daunting task that is restoration pruning. Pruning your shrubs every year (or multiple times a year when needed) will help keep your shrubs under control and looking great. If you neglect to prune a shrub for a few seasons, you may find that the shrub has grown uncontrollably to a point of no return.

It is best to prune shrubs in the summer, after the shrub has flowered, but before the buds develop for next year. This is especially important after a spring with optimal growing conditions, with plenty of rain and warm temperatures, as shrubs can grow significantly - even in a short period of time. Pruning in the summer after strong growing conditions is critical to ensure your shrubs do not get out of hand.

Regular pruning of shrubs will help keep your landscape attractive and healthy year after year. Should you miss a few years of pruning, you may need to partake in restoration pruning, which is very labor-intensive, has a long turnaround time, and is difficult to achieve without a skilled hand pruner.

If you’re not up for pruning your shrubs yourself, request a free consultation and we can have our professional pruners out to do it for you.


overgrown shrub

This forsythia flowered beautifully early in the spring, but optimal growing conditions in the late spring led the shrub to grow uncontrollably. It must be pruned this summer or else it will be beyond restoration next year.

regular hand pruning

Hand pruning may be tedious, but if you prune your shrubs each summer you'll keep them in check and looking great!

Best Time to Prune Trees and Shrubs

Understanding the importance of pruning is only half the battle. Next you must determine when and how often to prune your trees and shrubs.

Pruning is critical to ensure the health and appeal of your trees and shrubs. Once you recognize the importance of pruning, you then need to figure out when and how frequently to prune the various trees and shrubs across your property. The following information should serve as a guideline to the proper timing for tree and shrub pruning.

Shrub Pruning

Summer is the ideal time for shrub pruning, as you’ll enjoy the spring and summer flowering of the shrubs, and then prune them before they begin to develop buds for the next year. Wait too long to prune certain shrubs and you’ll actually be pruning off the buds of next year’s flowers. Shrubs, like rhododendron and hydrangea, should be pruned every summer to ensure the desired shape. Pruning shrubs every year will ensure they stay healthy, and maintain the shape and look you desire.

Ornamental Treesornamental tree pruning

Like shrubs, it is a good idea to prune ornamental trees every summer. Flowering trees, like the Kousa Dogwood, will benefit immensely from yearly summer pruning. Pruning after the spring and early summer flowering will allow you to enjoy the beautiful flowering, but make certain that the tree is in optimal shape for next year’s flowering cycle. It may be appropriate to prune ornamental trees every two years, but when you start waiting three or more years between prunings, you will run the risk of losing control of the tree’s shape and health.

Shade Trees

Mature shade trees should be pruned every two to five years to ensure proper light and airflow to keep the tree safe and healthy. The best time to prune, for both the Arborist and the homeowner, is during the winter months, from December to March. Pruning shade trees in the winter when there is no foliage ensures an Arborist easy access to the tree and clear sight lines. As an added benefit, most tree service companies provide a winter discount as the work is generally easier at this time.

Now that you’re equipped with a valuable pruning timeline, take advantage of our free consultations and meet with a Certified Arborist to discuss your tree and shrub pruning plan.


shrub pruning timeline

Pruning foundation shrubs every summer will keep them healthy and attractive.

Time for Shrub and Ornamental Tree Pruning

As we inch closer to the official start of summer, it’s time to start thinking about pruning your shrubs and ornamental trees.

Spring is a glorious time to be in the landscape. Shrubs and ornamental trees of all sorts will be flowering at various times throughout the spring, adding tremendous color and appeal to the landscape. Just remember, once the shrubs and ornamentals are done flowering you need to prune them to ensure they retain their desired shape, and remain insect and disease free. Pruning this summer will help promote optimal flowering next spring as well.

Ornamental tree and shrub pruning can be a “do it yourself” project, as long as you know a few things beforehand. First, ensure your pruning shears are sharp. Sharp tools will not only make the job easier for you, but it will be better for the tree or shrub being pruned. Just be careful to avoid injury. Next, be sure you know a little about the tree or shrub being pruned to ensure that the pruning is beneficial and not detrimental. For example, pruning fruit trees usually requires different sprout management than flowering trees.

Once you’ve sharpened your tools and identified any specific pruning needs, you’re ready to get started – just make sure you go slowly, and take the occasional step back to see the entire pruning subject before you snip off too much!

If you’d like to leave your shrub and ornamental tree pruning up to the experts, we’d be happy to help out. Click the button below for your free pruning consultation from a Certified Arborist.


ornamental tree and shrub pruning

"Frenchy" hand pruning shrubs last June.


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