Pruning seems counter-intuitive to plant growth. Why would you snip off limbs or twigs? Well, targeted pruning can help with improving both the structure of a tree or shrub as well as the health, e.g., If branches, or woody stems, are rubbing against one another or if there is the presence of dead branches/twigs.

There is also the timing of pruning, which can affect bud growth, and with some trees and shrubs, it can affect the flowering for the following season.

Always think about what you are pruning and how it will affect the look of the tree or shrubs… like a haircut it is always easier to take more off than put it back on!

What should I prune?

Remember the goal… if pruning is done correctly, when you are finished, others won’t notice you pruned!

When should I prune?

Evergreen and shrubs such as Arborvitae, Juniper, and Boxwood, and privet can be trimmed in early Spring and shaped to encourage new growth.

Spring has officially sprung! As you start to spend more time outside, you’re bound to notice your plants waking up and pushing out fresh new growth for the season, which leaves many of us wondering, “should I be pruning that right now?” We’ve rounded up some of our most asked about plants to put to rest the age-old question; to prune or not to prune?


Hydrangeas are a tricky set and one we get asked about most often. Your panicle hydrangeas can be cut back as much as 50 percent right now, but your traditional hydrangeas should be left alone. Don’t prune them now but rather tackle them at the end of the season to make sure you get the flowering you want. Wait until they flush through growth in the spring and then do your pruning and deadheading after that.

Dogwood & Crabapple Trees

The same goes for plants like dogwoods and crabapple trees. If you have a broken branch or some other minor trim to make, you can do that at any time and it won’t impact the plant, but you’ll want to save your serious pruning for later.

Flowering Shrubs

For your spring and summer flowering shrubs, like lilacs, rhododendrons, and azaleas, you’ll want to wait for them to start to bloom before pruning.


It’s still a little too early for evergreens and hedges. If you sheer them back now and we get a cold snap, you could damage the plant.

For larger evergreens, like white pines, the timing for pruning needs to be very specific. Wait until you see them flushing out new growth – what we call “candles” – to take on the task. You can pinch off the candles completely for a heavier sheer or cut them in half for a more subtle look.


With all pruning, the amount to trim depends on the size of the plant, but as a good rule of thumb, you want to prune it back by about one-third. There are some plants that are the exception to this, such as the summer flowering butterfly bush, which you can be very aggressive with and cut down to about a foot and allow it to flush back and regrow.

The goal of pruning is to leave the plant looking as natural as possible. If you do over prune, don’t panic! Plants are more resilient than you might think.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re here to help!

Want to stay on top of spring gardening tasks? Be sure to check out our Spring Checklist.

Things are uncertain right now and your routine has likely been upended, but one thing that is consistent is the need to get outside and the importance of spring cleaning this time of year!

That need is never more important than in your yard. This is the time to get some fresh air while you clean up, remove leaf debris and rake out the clutter from your garden.

It’s important as you cut back your ornamental grasses and prune and cut back your roses and perennials, make sure to spread a nice layer of mulch. For plant health, the best practice is to lay a three-inch-thick layer of woody mulch. Anything that is bark-based will do.

This is also the time to fertilize as well, and I’ll have more advice on that next week.

Applying Preen is also beneficial right now. The pre-emergent will prevent weeds from coming up and reduce the amount of maintenance you need to do throughout the year. If you really want to enter the green thumb zone, add compost to your beds before you lay down mulch, which will add some nice organic matter into the soil. For those of you who are at home and would rather not come into the Garden Center right now, we deliver mulch in bulk, which you can pay for over the phone or online. We’ll drop it off in your driveway and you don’t even need to come outside. Please, though, do get outside and enjoy the changing season and freshen up your landscape!


Fourth of July is often used as a marker for pruning some shrubs, perennials, and annuals. Knowing when to prune is an important step in keeping your plants healthy and thriving. Now is the perfect time to prune the following :

Evergreen trees and shrubs










Mock orange


Veronica (halfway)


Bleeding Heart


Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils

Montauk Daisy (halfway)

Painted Daisy

Winter is coming- not just for Game of Thrones, but for your garden too. And like many people at the first sign of cold, you’re off and ready to prepare for the worst of it- raking, mulching, composting, and of course, pruning, right? Well, hold on just a second.

While cutting back your perennials after the first frost and cleaning up your vegetable garden are certainly recommended right now, try to fight the urge to fire up hedge trimmers and oil up your pruners in anticipation of a good fall trim. Most summer flowering plants, like roses, panicled hydrangeas, rose of Sharon, and others, much prefer to be left alone for the coming winter and cleaned up in the early spring. Even your ornamental grasses would much rather be left alone for the winter and pruned in the spring. By leaving these plants alone, you allow any winter damage to occur at the tops of the plants, where you would be pruning it out anyway, instead of much deeper in the plant, where it will take longer to recover.

But when exactly should you prune? Spring flowering shrubs like azaleas, lilac, and rhododendron should be pruned after flower and before the fourth of July, whereas summer flowering shrubs, roses, and grasses should be left alone until late winter or early, early spring. Any evergreens can be pruned in mid-spring after the plants have begun to flush lush new growth.

Winter is coming- make yourself a drink and stay warm. Your plants will thank you in the spring.

Will O’Hara

Perennial Manager

(Fruit Tree Care)

Don’t you want your family and friends to look at your fruit trees this year and exclaim, “What a fruiting beauty?! Don’t you want to share your bountiful harvest of peaches, apples, and plums with those you love? I am assuming your answer is a hardy “Yes!” Okay then, let’s make this happen. Fruit tree care begins now.

There isn’t much happening right now or is there? Yes, there is plenty going on with our fruit trees right now. The root system is waking up and busily absorbing nutrients and water, the canopy is starting to push out green buds that will open into beautiful flowers, and unfortunately, diseases and insects may also be waking up on our fruit trees.

Let’s begin, shall we!? Grab a bottle of Bonide’s All Season Horticultural Oil. If using concentrate, mix at a rate of 3 tablespoons per gallon of water. Spray the entire fruit tree from the tips of branches to the bottom of the trunk. This will help eliminate any overwintering insects or insect eggs. I always recommend horticultural oil to wake up the garden. Spray when temperatures are above 40 degrees but before the buds open.

When you grab your bottle of Horticultural Oil, be sure to pick up a bag of Espoma’s Tree-Tone. Tree-Tone is the perfect, organic, slow-release fertilizer for your fruit trees. Don’t be shy. Most people under-fertilize. Remember, it takes a lot of energy for fruit trees to push out that delicious fruit. Depending on the size of your fruit trees, you can use anywhere from 3lbs/9 cups to 6lbs/18 cups per inch of trunk diameter. I know that sounds like a lot, but trust me! Apply the fertilizer at the drip line of the tree always. That is where all the hungry feeder roots hang out. Feeding and Horticultural Spray can both happen NOW!

Don’t get too comfortable. The next step will happen soon. When you start to notice green tips appearing on your fruit trees, it is time to switch to Bonide’s Citrus, Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray, or Bonide’s Fruit Tree & Plant Guard. If using the concentrate of the Orchard Spray, use at a rate of 2.5 ounces/5 tablespoons to 5 ounces/10 tablespoons to 1 gallon of water. Spray every 7 to 10 days up to the day of harvesting fruit. If using the Fruit Tree Guard, mix at a rate of 2 ounces/2 tablespoons to 1 gallon of water. This product packs a potent punch and only needs to be applied 3 X’s in the season…at the green tip to pre-bloom, at petal fall, and at fruit set. Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Have you already done your winter pruning? If not, now is the time to clean up those suckers! I literally mean, it is time to clean up those suckers. Suckers are the unwanted branches that grow straight up from the base of the trunk, from shallow roots, and from branches. Anytime you see suckers growing, cut them off at the base. We don’t like suckers.

After all this work, you and your family will be able to reap the bounty of your plentiful harvest or simply enjoy eating a homegrown apple or two.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!


*Bonide’s Horticultural Oil

*Bonide’s Citrus, Fruit, & Nut Orchard Spray

*Bonide’s Fruit Tree & Plant Guard

*Espoma’s Tree-Tone

What will happen with my Hydrangeas this season! That has been the most asked question at the garden center recently. My advice to all…don’t panic. With the recent up and down weather temperatures experienced over the past few weeks, some plants may show effects from it. However, it is too soon to tell. The good news is we should have plenty of time for our plants to bounce back.

Some of you may be asking what I can do now. Now is the time to examine your plants. Pay close attention to the buds. If the buds that began to swell during the warm weather we had in February and early March are still alive chances are they will be fine. If the buds at the tips of the stems have been damaged it will cause the buds below to eventually open with flowers. This is called apical dominance. Please resist the temptation to prune your plants to the ground. This may cause your plants to not flower this year and next. There are so many hydrangeas these days that require different pruning times, I recommend speaking to one of our many knowledgeable staff members to learn how and when to prune. I have also attached an awesome link from our friends at Proven Winners outlining the What, When, and How of Hydrangea care.

Why isn’t my Hydrangea Blooming Chart

Jason Scire, Nursery Manager