By Rachel Boswoth
Though it may not quite seem like it, spring has officially arrived on the East End. Soon the grass will turn green, and trees and flowers will begin to bloom. With this glimmer of warm weather on the horizon, arborists and landscapers will continue their work preparing properties for the summer months. Landscaper Jackson Dodds shares some of his insights just in time for spring.
Though the dormant winter months are the best time to prune most trees as disease and insect activity is very minimal, spring is ideal for trees with more than just leaves. “Magnolias and other flowering trees are best to prune in spring,” says Mr. Dodds. “These you want to do after they flower to increase the amount of flowers rather than decrease them.”
With the East End having such a wide variety of property types, each project has its own unique needs. “We usually have a nice three-year process,” Mr. Dodds says of his company, Jackson Dodds and Company, Inc. of Southampton. “We select trees on a third of the property the first year to prune, and so on. We split it up so as to not over prune and allow it to grow back.”
Maple and oak trees can be pruned every three to five years, whereas privets are pruned two to three times per year. Over pruning is bad for the tree, and Mr. Dodds explains that breaking up the process and coming back every few years to the same tree allows it to grow back healthily. “A tree that has been maintained requires a lot less pruning than one that has never been pruned,” he says. “It’s very important to keep up; it reduces the amount of time spent on the tree and is great health wise.”
There are a number of reasons to prune trees. Hazardous dead wood is pruned for safety purposes, while other trees that have large, full canopies may be trimmed to prevent a break, and allow wind to flow through easily. Of course, there is the aesthetic aspect. “Rounded trees or shrubs that need to fit the landscape detail, like a privet, is sheered two to three times a year to keep dense and full and not ragged,” Mr. Dodds says.
To prevent tearing of the bark on trees with large limbs, Mr. Dodds suggests a three-cut method. Begin two to three feet away from the trunk to make two cuts to remove part of the branch. Next, as with trees of all sizes, the final cut is made at the branch collar. This cut should be angular so water does not collect, as it could cause decay.
One concern with trees today is something that threatens the vast majority of Long Island. “There’s a very big problem called ‘Oak Wilt.’ It’s a disease that will kill the tree very quickly,” Mr. Dodds explains. “Red and black oak trees are the majority of trees on Long Island.”
Mr. Dodds is also the president of the Long Island Arboricultural Association, and is working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to address the problem. In a video Mr. Dodds shared from the NYSDEC, Oak Wilt Operations Coordinator Jennifer Kotary explained the disease can kill trees within one to five weeks, and can kill thousands of trees per year. “It can wipe out an entire neighborhood of their oaks,” Ms. Kotary says. “In wood lots and forests, it can move miles.”
With this in mind, both the NYSDEC and Mr. Dodds strongly urge people to only prune these trees in the winter months when they are dormant. “The disease is spread by sap beetles,” Mr. Dodds says. “It can spread quickly in the summer.” It is currently part of his mission to bring awareness of this issue to the public, and prevent further devastation to the populations of these trees.
Spring Pruning with Jackson Dodds will be held on Saturday, March 25 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Bridge Gardens, 36 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. Sponsored by the Peconic Land Trust and the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons, Mr. Dodds will lead a guided walk with Bridge Gardens Manager Rick Bogusch to identify and explain proper pruning techniques. The cost is $10 per person; free to members of Bridge Gardens and the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons. To RSVP, call Robin Harris at the Peconic Land Trust at (631) 283-3195, ext. 19, or email Events@Peconiclandtrust.org.