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Growing Concerns: It’s not too late to trim those shrubs

December 2, 2018

I have had several questions since my last column. I appreciate these so I can address topics that are of interest to the readers. Email me your questions, and I will try to respond directly and answer some of the more common ones in my column. Here are a few that were asked since my last column.

Is it too late to prune shrubs this fall?

No. Shrubs can be pruned any time they are dormant, which is from early November through Mid-April in most years. Shrubs will respond the same when pruned any time during this period.

Deep snow does tend to make pruning shrubs difficult, so I generally prune them up until we get appreciable snow cover and then delay until snow melts down in the spring. I will also postpone pruning shrubs around bird feeding stations until spring to leave more staging area for the birds.

If you have shrubs that bloom on the previous season’s growth, it is important to retain adequate blooming wood if you want to preserve spring bloom.

A deer has rubbed the bark off of the trunks of my young trees. Does wrapping or painting the trunk help them recover?

No, wrapping or painting wounds on trees does not help them heal or prevent decay. In fact, some research suggests that is has a negative effect by trapping moisture in the wood and inhibiting the tree’s natural process of developing callus tissue to seal over damaged tissue.

If the bark has been rubbed off all the way to the wood, those areas will not develop new bark or vascular tissue because the cambium, which can produce new cells, has been removed.

New vascular system will develop along the edges of the wound if some of the circumference has bark intact. If this is the case, the wound wood will gradually develop and cover the wound. The center portion of exposed wood will develop decay and eventually form a hollow stem.

As a general rule, if half or more of the circumference has bark intact, the tree has a good chance of recovering.

Do I need to wait until spring to have deadwood pruned from my tree?

This is a common question because from the ground it can be hard for a homeowner to differentiate dead branches from those that are just dormant for the winter.

Once in a tree, identifying deadwood within the canopy of dormant branches is easy for a trained arborist. Being in the canopy enables us to readily observe branches for missing bark, lack of viable buds, brittle twigs and expanded branch collars, which indicate declining or dead branches.

Dead branches also occupy the canopy of trees in consistent patterns, so we know where to look. If you observed deadwood in the canopy of your trees in the summer and want it cleaned out, don’t hesitate to contact a trained arborist to do this work while the tree is dormant.

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