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Posted by Todd Thomasson on Aug 27, 2020 12:50:48 PM

Landscape maintenance technician pruning shrubAre your bushes and trees looking unruly? Are you getting frustrated and ready to tackle them on your own? After all, how hard can it really be to just clean them up?

Unfortunately, we’ve heard similar tales told again and again by homeowners who went to do what they thought was some simple pruning of bushes and trees but ended up butchering their landscape.

It’s not always that they cut too much—though that certainly happens sometimes, too. You think you’re just making a snip here and a snip there and then suddenly you’ve cut way too much. But it’s also the fact that pruning can be a lot more complicated than people tend to realize. Everything from the proper tools to the time that you prune can have an impact.

That’s why we’d urge you to put those shears down and let us explain a bit more about what’s involved in hand pruning trees and bushes before you go out and tackle it.

Why Should I Be Pruning Bushes & Trees?

You probably think of pruning in terms of aesthetics and that’s certainly a huge reason why you should do it. Keeping bushes and trees cleaned up, so that there isn’t a lot of overgrowth and unruly mess, is certainly important. 

Of course, it might even be more functional than that. You may need to cut back certain growth which is now blocking a window or growing over the walkways. Sometimes, pruning is even important to keep one plant from shading out other nearby plants.

But it’s also important to know that pruning is good for your plants. Proper pruning can help your trees and shrubs to grow better, including stimulating flowering. It can also assist with preventing disease spread and can help remove old growth which could become problematic to your plant’s health. 

What to Prune and When?

This is the big question that homeowners want answered. People want a simple answer to “what should I prune and when should I prune it?” 

But it’s all very plant-specific. 

Although you might be tempted, you can’t just haphazardly choose what you wish to prune or when to prune it. The best time and method to prune is going to differ from plant to plant. That means that even though it’d be a lot easier to go out and prune everything on one weekend, this can ultimately hurt your landscape if you end up pruning a plant that needs to be pruned at a very specific time.

While some plants are going to require highly selective hand pruning, others can handle more of an overall cut—and may be a lot more forgiving of the timing, as well. 

Some of the least-forgiving plants that we often see in a landscape are hydrangea, azalea, roses, and crape myrtles. 

crape myrtle tree in Virginia

All of these plants benefit most from careful and selective hand pruning. They have a very specific way they should be pruned along with a set timeline. If you prune these plants at the wrong time of year, you could negatively impact their flowering for that season. In a worst case scenario, you could harm their health so severely that they never fully recover.

With all of this in mind, pruning has been called both an “art and a science.” 

The art is in pruning in a way that you maintain or even enhance the beauty of the plant. The science is in the fact that you must understand that plant and its nuances in order to benefit its health.  In order to be most successful with pruning bushes and trees, you must achieve both.

Choosing Your Tool for Pruning Bushes and Trees

To complicate things even further, you should also know that choosing the right tool for your pruning work is also going to matter. You want to make sure that you’re making the proper cut and the tool that you use will have an impact. 

Here are just some of the types of tools that might be included in a pruning toolbox. 

  • Pruning shears are generally best for branches between ¼ and ½ of an inch.
  • Lopping shears can be used for larger branches.
  • Hedge shears are not for pruning but for shaping. These would be utilized if you have a plant that you want “hedged,” such as a boxwood. Boxwoods are universally known as the shrub for hedging as many people do like them trimmed into a formal shape. 

Keep in mind that the state of the tools is also important. 

You want to make sure that you have sharpened pruning tools that will make a clean cut. Dull shears will make a jagged cut which might severely hurt your plant. It’s harder for a tree or shrub to recover from a jagged cut and this can actually make the plant prone to decay and disease.

A DIY Approach to Pruning Bushes and Trees or Hiring a Pro?

We know that pruning sounds like a simple enough task that a lot of homeowners want to just tackle it on their own, but with so many plants requiring selective hand pruning at different times of the year, they often get in over their head when they try to do it themselves.

Pruning is going to dramatically influence the way that your plants grow and have a direct impact on their beauty. Since all of this is tied back to your investment in this plant material, it’s important that it’s performed properly. The last thing that you’d want is to ruin some of the plants in your landscape because they were pruned incorrectly.

For that reason, you might be thinking about hiring a professional. But it’s important to recognize that not all professionals will have the skill or knowledge to prune properly, either—nor will they take the care you should expect. You want to find a pruning service that will give your trees and shrubs the TLC that they deserve.

Rock Water Farm Landscape Maintenance pruning trees

To help you find the best pruning services in South Riding, VA, make sure that you ask whether they prune certain plant varieties by hand, alter their pruning schedule based on the plant material, and if they have an arsenal of many different pruning tools. Understanding how a company performs their pruning services will help you to determine whether they’re going to take the care your landscape requires. 

You want to make sure that if you’re investing in a professional, you’re getting the best results out of their pruning services.

Working with Rock Water Farm for Pruning Bushes and Trees

Although there are plenty of landscape maintenance companies out there that do not really have the high level of experience and knowledge when it comes to pruning, it is something that we take pride in at Rock Water Farm. Our extensive horticultural knowledge of plants here in Northern Virginia helps us to make the best decisions in terms of what to prune, as well as how and when to prune it. We have all of the tools needed to perform the precise method that is best for your plant. And we take great care in keeping our tools in the finest working condition.

After all, we understand that the ornamental trees and the shrubs that make up your landscape are incredibly valuable to you and we take our role in maintaining them quite seriously. 

When you hire Rock Water Farm to take care of your pruning needs, you gain peace of mind that your landscape is in good hands. We’ll help ensure that your plants are well-cared for so that you can continue to get the maximum value and enjoyment out of them for many years to come.

If you’re ready to feel confident that your South Riding, VA is in good hands, talk to an expert, and get ready to choose a solution that rocks.

Request a Consultation

Image sources: crape myrtle       

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About The Author

Todd Thomasson
Todd Thomasson

Todd Thomasson, founded Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes in 2005. Having grown up with hard working parent role models and a strong work ethic, Todd put his Landscape & Turf Management degree from Virginia Tech into action as the lead stone mason and landscape designer for the new company. Over the years, the responsibility and opportunity of running this company has been shared with other members of the Rock Water Farm team, launching one of the leading property maintenance companies in Loudoun County. Todd is still rooted in his passion for design/build projects and continues to run the company, working with clients to design, build and maintain perfect outdoor spaces with his team.