pruning basics by levy's lawns and landscaping washington

So, the trees in your yard look like they’ve seen better days, and you’re considering pruning them. It’s a great idea. Pruning will help restore their structure and improve their health. It’ll also manage the direction of their growth and reduce the risk of causing damage to people or property. But where should you focus your pruning efforts? Read on to find out.

How To Decide Where To Focus Pruning Efforts

Two major factors determine how much you should prune your tree:  the age and the health status of the tree.

  • Is the tree matured or young? You should prune a matured tree lightly, as its growth rate has slowed down. On the other hand, a young tree can withstand heavier pruning, as it will grow back its branches rapidly.
  • Is the tree healthy or diseased? If a tree is suffering from a severe disease, you’re likely to do more pruning than you would from a healthy tree. Branches that won’t be removed from a healthy tree would have to be cut because they are diseased.

Parts of The Tree To Prune

Sometimes, all you need to focus on is removing some twigs and overgrown branches. Other times, you would need to remove more. In any case, here are the several tree parts to focus your pruning efforts.

  • Diseased, dying or dead branches
  • Twigs sprouting at the trunk’s base
  • Branches growing across the tree’s center
  • Branches that cross and rub together or may rub in the future
  • Vertical branches that may grow into additional or secondary trunks
  • Overgrown foliage and branches affecting buildings, power lines or visibility.

How To Prune Your Tree

When pruning, you should cut back to a bud, twig or branch to encourage healthy new growth. However, you have to do it carefully, so you don’t cut into the trunk and remove or expose live tissues, as this will create an entry for insect pests and diseases that may damage the tree. You can avoid this by cutting branches just before the points where they spring from the trunk (i.e., the collar). You can find a more in-depth pruning guide here, or reach out to us at Levy’s Lawn and Landscaping for professional help.


Whether the season is mild or brutal, chances are you don’t find yourself puttering around the yard too much in November. This month is perfect, however, for last minute plantings and garden upkeep, ensuring that your yard will burst into its glory come spring. Additionally, select some winter blooming plants to add color accents to your yard.

Here’s a handy checklist of things to do now, while the air is cool and rain brings an abundance of nourishing water:

  • Many retailers sell bulbs at a discount now. Buy a few, and, if the dirt is still pliable, plant them throughout the yard. They’ll yield bright blooms in the spring.
  • To keep your deck from appearing drab, plant a container garden. Pansy, viola, flowering stock, ornamental cabbage, daphne, witch hazel and flowering kale are all colorful plants to keep winter spirits up. Hellebores yield colorful flowers and, best of all, they’re deer resistant. Choose from the dainty, early flowering Christmas rose; bear’s claw hellebores (H. foetidus_), with tiny, spring green blossoms; and the beautiful hybrid Lenten roses (H.x hybridus).  Coming in a variety of single and double flowers ranging from speckled white, cream, yellow and apricot to purple, pink, red and slate black, these drought resistant plants bring architectural elegance to your landscape. There are even taller – 2-3’ tall – green flowered types ( argutifolius), as well as some hybrids that are smaller, with large, cupped green to purple flowers. Resistant to both deer and voles, they last for years and bring color at a time when flowers are rare. For existing hellebores, add lime to acid soil for H. x hybridus if a soil test shows a pH under 7.0. Do not prune back for winter.
  • An arrangement of evergreen branches, twigs, pinecones and dried grasses can lend holiday cheer to your front porch.
  • Sprinkle wildflower seeds around your garden. Seeds sown in the fall yield colorful blossoms sooner than spring sown seeds.
  • Do you have an orchard or even a few fruit trees in the yard? Keep pests and disease at bay, as well as get a little exercise, with some basic autumn upkeep. Rake leaves and stow in the compost bin or green disposable bin for pick-up. Prune diseased or misshapen limbs and eliminate. Mow grass and weeds near tree trunks to prevent rodents from gnawing bark. Spray for Apricot brown rot or Peach leaf curl—make sure to cover the trunk, branches and ground beneath when spraying.
  • Turn over vegetable gardens to expose overwintering insects to cold temperatures. Work a layer of chopped leaves, dried grass or compost into soil. In spring, work the bright green stems into the soil to add more nutrients.
  • Consider adding a winter bird habitat in your yard. The Oso berry, or Indian plum, grows about 8’-12’ tall. In the winter, it produces a delicate white flower, while in the spring it yields a blue berry that birds love. The Mahonia (Mahoniax media) are 8’-15’ shrubs that produce sprays of bright, sunshine yellow flowers from December or January to February and March, depending on the plant and the weather. Cultivars such as Charity, Winter Sun, Arthur Menzies, and Lionel Fortescue add a color wow, perfect flower size and nectar for hummingbirds.

Hope this helps you beat the winter blues!

weed your yard in the winter

Here in the Northwest, there are a variety of plants we call favorites. They add color to our yards and gardens and are generally easy to care for. Sedum, Scotch heather, hydrangea, ornamental grasses and lavender are often at the top of the list for the color they provide and the ease of care they require.

As fall quickly approaches, if you’re like most Pacific Northwest gardeners, you’ve got Levy’s Lawns and Landscape or other landscape company out in the yard, pruning, lopping and cutting back the abundant remains of your garden. Or, maybe you’re the one doing the pruning, trimming back plants that have finished their blooming cycle or have already started to go into dormancy. You’ve probably been deadheading the flowers in your yard, and are ready to tackle larger projects, like trees and shrubs.

We’d like to offer you a basic overview of how to prune your favorite plants so they renew themselves year after year:

  • Do you have low growing heathers in your yard, like Scotch heathers? Although they are easy maintenance plants, they still require cutting back in the fall. With your pruning shear, carefully prune right below the blossoms where there’s still green. It might seem like a drastic trim, but these hardy plants will grow back in no time.
  • Shape your lavender into “ice cream cones”. Established plants can be pruned heavily, to at least 1/3 of the growth. Go even heavier on older plants, but don’t go into leafless wood. Remove all the spent blossoms. Pop the stems and any remaining flowers in a vase in the house for a burst of fragrant scent.
  • Snip the flower heads off the stems of your hydrangeas, just above the swollen buds at the base of the flowers. Remove the oldest, woodiest branches—they’re the ones least likely to flower next year. Get rid of spindly branches, too.
  • A lot of North westerners have raspberry plants. Hopefully, you’ve eaten your fill of the tasty gems, and frozen some for the winter months. Wait a couple months to prune the completely dormant plants to ensure a great yield next season. Follow this simple rule: remove any canes that gave you fruit. The stems that yielded fruit will still be clinging to the canes, making it easy to tell which ones to cut back.
  • “Autumn Joy” Sedum is a popular plant in Pacific Northwest gardens. The cheerful blossoms provide a welcome burst of color when summer’s flowers are fading. If you can, wait until January, when the birds have eaten their fill of the sedum seeds which have fallen to the ground. Then, use your pruning shears to trim the stems down to about 3” from the ground. Or, use longer bladed hedging shears to make short work of your task.
  • Ornamental grasses are popular in our Northwest gardens, too. These fast growing, hardy plants can loom 6’ or more in your yard. But, before you start whacking away at your grasses, first you need to determine whether it’s a cool season or a warm season grass. Cool season ornamental grasses include fescue, ribbon grass (Phalaris), feather grass (Stipa), northern sea oats and tufted hair grass. Japanese blood grass, maiden grass (Miscanthus), fountain grass (Pennisetum) and hardy pampas grass (Saccharum) are all warm season grasses.Cool season grasses start producing new growth early in the spring, after temperatures begin to stay above freezing. They also start flowering by early summer, making them good additions in the short growing season of a northern garden.Warm season grasses start their growth much later in the spring. They begin flowering later in the summer and into the fall.Once you’ve determined the type of grass you’re dealing with, then you can plan your pruning. In general, wait until late winter or very early spring to trim back your cool season grasses. Cut them back so about a third of last year’s growth remains. Be careful not to cut them back too far, or you can seriously damage the plant.Warm season grasses can be left untended until the spring, but not so long that new foliage starts to sprout. They can be cut to the ground, if desired. If you do see new growth, however, make sure to trim carefully, leaving the tender green shoots in place.

We’ve got a list of plants you DON’T want to prune, too. You can read it here.

Need help with larger projects, like pruning trees and shrubs? Give us a call at (360) 265-5231