Get Smart About Your Tree & Shrub Care

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As Tree Care professionals, nearly every day we encounter issues that could have been avoided with proper planning. Having record of all your trees, their species, age, size and health history is the first major step to properly caring for a large property. Here at Emerald Tree and Shrub Care, we consider a tree inventory the absolute most valuable service we provide.

When you hire Emerald to conduct a tree inventory, we will send 1-2 (depending on property size) board certified arborists to walk your property with our state of the art inventory application. Using an aerial image of your land, they will pinpoint and ID every single tree they see.  Notes will be taken to document the species, age, size, health condition and recommended maintenance for each tree.

The inventory itself lives in the cloud, so it can be real-time updated by our arborists at any time. You will receive a link which you can access from your desktop, phone, or tablet.  From this thorough inspection and documentation, our arborists will be able to provide you a detailed scope of work for current and future tree care needs. Times when you will consider this inventory a true life saver include:

  • Planning new construction: If you want to build an addition or renovate an existing structure, this inventory will be crucial in planning for the installation of hardscapes, utility services and water and sewer lines. The inventory will also be used to develop a Tree Protection Plan to prescribe a regimen of treatments that will mitigate the stress experienced by trees during construction.
  • Landscape Design: What tree species should we add? Where will new plantings thrive? Will existing plantings be affected if we change the grade of our land? These are all important questions to consider when altering your landscape, and can all be properly addressed by referencing a tree inventory.
  • Changeover in Property Management: For large properties that require property managers, groundskeepers or superintendents, it is very important to have maintenance and health conditions well documented. A tree inventory would prove to be absolutely priceless when you have a change in property management personnel. An up to date record of all trees allows for a seamless  and well-informed handoff.

To learn more about our Tree Inventories and how they can benefit your property, please call us today at 914-725-0441 to schedule a meeting with an arborist today.

Black Knot: What You Should Know

What is Black Knot

Black Knot is a common fungal disease that typically attacks ornamental Cherry Trees and Plum Trees.  The disease is spread by infectious spores that can easily disperse through the air, on gardening tools and in spring rain.  Once a tree is infected, it can take a full year until the symptoms are fully recognizable with black tumor like growths appearing on the branches or trunk of the tree.  In late spring and early summer, these growths will become covered with olive green spores.  This is the time of year when the disease is likely to spread, but it is not always detected at this time, because trees are in full bloom and the bark is less visible.

How it impacts trees

The fungus itself is called Apiosporina Morbosa.  As it grows, it releases chemicals into the bark that causes the tree to grow extra plant cells that are extremely large. The growth itself will not kill your tree, however, the growths cause cracks in the bark, allowing other wood rotting fungi to enter and cause harm and sometimes death.

Early Detection and Prevention

Fall and Winter are the best months to inspect those ornamentals that are most susceptible to Black Knot and determine if an infection exists.  If detected early, an arborist may be able to prune away the affected branches and follow up with several Spring Fungicide treatments to prevent further infection from occurring.  A tree that was once infected, should be watched very closely, as it’s possible a growth could come back at anytime.


Because the disease is so easily spread, pruning should always occur in the Fall and Winter months when the spores are least active.  Also, infected branches should be very carefully removed from the property and all tools and equipment that came in contact must be sanitized thoroughly with rubbing alcohol. Fungicide treatment should be applied in the springtime right before buds begin to open. It’s a serious disease that is easily spread, so we highly recommend calling a Certified Arborist to diagnose and treat Black Knot. If you have Plum or Cherry Trees that you would like inspected, please call Emerald Tree & Shrub Care today at 914-725-0441.


Beware of Boxwood Blight

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Boxwood Blight is a very concerning disease that was first discovered in the United States in 2011.  How it came to arrive here, and where the pathogen originally came from is unknown. It has recently been discovered in Downstate NY, Long Island and Connecticut.

Every species of Buxux is at risk of this disease, while some have proven to be more susceptible than others.  Signs of Boxwood Blight include lesions or dark streaking on the stems, brown spotting on the leaves, and defoliation (leaves falling off the branches). Interestingly, the disease infects all aboveground portions of the boxwood, leaving the roots intact.

The Boxwood Blight has a very rapid disease cycle that grows fastest in humid environments at a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The worst thing about this disease is how easily the pathogen can travel from one host to the next. Gardeners can transmit the disease between properties by not properly sanitizing their shears, it can even travel on your clothes from one property to the next.

If you recognize the warning signs of Boxwood Blight, act fast, it’s only a matter of time before your whole hedge will be infected. Without early detection and management, the result is often death of the plant.

The bad news is, there is no current cure for Boxwood Blight, if discovered, you should have a plant health care specialist inspect to see if the disease can be managed with fungicide treatments or if removal is the only option.  If removal is the recommended course, it is very important to have a professional handle this, as to prevent it from contaminating other plants during removal and transport.

If you have boxwoods on your property, we encourage you to follow these preventative measures:

  • If you have boxwoods, treat them according to the guidelines below. If you don’t have them, DO NOT ADD THEM TO YOUR GARDEN. The risk associate with boxwood blight is just too high, it’s best to stay clear of boxwoods.
  • Allow an adequate amount of space between each plant to provide enough air circulation.
  • Avoid overwatering, because a humid atmosphere and water droplets are key to the disease’s growth.
  • Be extremely diligent about sanitizing shears, rakes, gloves etc., that may have been exposed to the pathogen.
  • Inspect your plants often, early detection is crucial in managing the spread and keeping your lovely hedges alive.
  • Hire Emerald to do fungicide applications on your boxwoods each year.

Caring For Your Trees In Winter.


There is something very calming about looking out into your wintery yard and knowing all your plants and trees are resting for the winter. Luckily, they have a natural ability to prepare themselves for dormancy and are extremely resilient. That’s not to say though, that the stress of an intense cold season does not wear on your precious greens. Trees, particularly young ones, will likely experience some sort of damage without the proper protection by you, the homeowner. Read through these helpful winter care tips to ensure your greens come back strong and revived next Spring!


Lay about 2 inches of organic mulch right along the drip line of your trees in order to keep roots and soil protected from extreme cold.  It also helps trap moisture and water from escaping the soil. A helpful hint is to wait until after the ground freezes to lay mulch, this prevents mice from making your nice soft mulch their nesting spot for the winter.

Hydrate & Feed.

Late Fall is the ideal time to water and fertilize your greens because a good dose of nutrients will help them stay nourished, protect against diseases and support root development throughout the dormant months of winter.  Fertilizing a plant or tree right before winter months will also support healthy new growth in the early spring as the nutrients stay present in the soil for the roots to absorb for several months.


To prevent your evergreens from experiencing desiccation, a state of extreme dryness, we recommend applying a healthy dose of anti-desiccant spray before the freeze. Our anti-desiccant solution, leaves a thin waxy film on the surface of the plant, sealing off it’s tiny pores and preventing any moisture from evaporating.

Protect From Ice Melt.

It may take some time for you to notice the effects salt has on your plants, as it will first be absorbed into the soil, and will slowly move to the roots, stems and buds causing permanent decline and even death to your greens. Since it’s such common practice during snow storms, what can you do? Create a barrier between pathways and the street and your plantings.  Improve drainage by adding charcoal or gypsum to your soil. Avoid using rock salt all together or dilute it with sand.


Winter is actually a fantastic time to inspect trees and identify problem branches and dead wood.  Pruning during the dormant months is also smart because it will prevent diseases from spreading because disease organisms are dormant.

Why Your Evergreens Need Anti-Desiccant Spray

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Temperatures here in Westchester and Fairfield County have remained mild, but with high 30s predicted next week, we can be confident the dry cold weather is creeping near. For us, winter is a time for hibernation; avoiding the outdoors, sleeping more, eating comfort foods and keeping warm by a fire. Since trees and shrubs are rooted outside, there is no escaping the prolonged dry and cold weather which can be particularly damaging, especially to evergreens. When evergreens are continuously exposed to freezing temps, they experience desiccation; a state of extreme dryness. What does evergreen desiccation looks like? We’ve all seen it, a beautiful looking evergreen speckled with light brown blotches from winter scorch (see picture above). To prevent this from happening, we recommend applying an anti-desiccant spray to all your azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies or any needled evergreens. Our anti-desiccant solution, leaves a thin waxy film on the surface of the plant, sealing off it’s tiny pores and preventing any moisture from evaporating.

Here at Emerald Tree and Shrub Care, our crews monitor the climate’s effects on your evergreens very closely.  We start off by recommending an anti-desiccant spray right before temps drop to freezing, usually in Mid to Late-November.  We spray both the upper and lower leaf surface, making sure to seal the entire plant. As winter progresses, if it’s particularly cold and dry, we may recommend a follow up spray in January or February.

If you want to protect your plants and shrubs from the cold and harsh winter that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting, call today to schedule an application of Anti-Desiccant spray to all your evergreens, hollies, azaleas and rhododendrons.  914-725-0441.

Help… My Evergreens Are Turning Brown And Shedding Needles!

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We have received many calls from concerned clients lately that their spruces, pines and arborvitaes are shedding needles and turning yellow or brown.  We are so happy to report that this is a completely normal occurrence and is no cause for alarm! These species of trees and shrubs are what we refer to as “narrowleaf evergreens”.  While evergreens get their name because they stay green all year, this does not necessarily mean they retain the same needles for their entire life. Each species of evergreen works on a different needle life cycle.  They retain their needles anywhere from one to five years and then they quickly drop and refresh the older ones keeping their fir green and healthy. The process always occurs in the fall, but as mentioned, typically does not happen every year. Spruces retain the same needles for a full 5 years before dropping, while Pine’s have a yearly cycle of dropping and refreshing. Arborvitaes typically follow a two year cycle, and firs such as Douglas firs and Hemlocks can retain their needles anywhere from 3-5 years.

One of the most surprising aspects of this process, is that we never see a bald evergreen! As needles are yellowing and dropping to the ground in huge batches, the tree is rapidly reproducing fresh needles keeping the full evergreen appearance.  What’s more, is that they are not shedding their entire set of needles each cycle, just the oldest ones that are located on the inside of the tree, closest to the trunk.  This brings up an important point, if you notice your evergreen losing needles from the ends of their branches, this may be cause for concern. Young needles and buds found on the end would only be dying and dropping if something more serious was occurring within your tree.


Importance Of Tree Preservation During Construction

Drive along the residential streets of Westchester or Fairfield county and you are bound to see  cement trucks, excavators and cranes hard at work expanding homes and making them more livable for todays’ families. If you are lucky enough to be planning a home renovation, then you are also aware that the list of “to-do’s” is literally endless. Permits, inspections, architects, plan revisions and don’t forget, picking out every last finish.  What may start out feeling fun and exciting, can quickly turn daunting.

However, we are not here to overwhelm you, rather, we’d like to take a moment and point out one important piece that very often gets overlooked, Tree Preservation.  When deciding to undertake a renovation project the main motive is normally to ‘Add Value’, then why is it so easy to forget about the irreplaceable value a mature tree adds to your landscape? Did you know that mature trees carry a value of up to $10,000 each! But it’s not even about the dollar amount; they provide shade, privacy, better air quality, and protection from storms, making them a priceless addition to any home’s landscape.

You might be wondering: How can a tree 10 feet from my house be impacted by construction? Well it’s not about those parts of the tree you can see and admire, the trunk and the crown, it’s what lies beneath, the roots.  The very ends of a tree’s roots, known as the Critical Root Zone, are the most important aspect of a tree’s vitality.  The Critical Root Zone is identified by tracing a circle on the ground that mirrors the edge of the tree’s crown (See diagram below). Depending on the size of the tree, the Critical Root Zone can be anywhere from 5 to 30 feet away from the base of the trunk.  We bet you probably didn’t realize that… And can also bet that most construction contractors don’t know that either.


So now imagine this precious circle around the base of your tree, and how the weight of excavators, fork lifts and pallets can compact the soil and prevent water, air and nutrients from getting to the primary feeding zone of your tree. Or that construction debris and potentially harmful chemicals may be compromising the soil surrounding the critical root zone.  AH! Scary! The risk is real.

Here at Emerald Tree and Shrub Care, we are experts in preserving mature trees from a number of hazards, including, construction. The key is, enlisting our services before your project starts. Below are the steps we take to ensure your trees remain strong and healthy through the entire building process:

  • Partner with the building company early on. Determine the timeline, scope of the project and areas that will be effected.
  • Have an arborist walk the property and identify the preservation needs for different trees and plants.
  • Perform fertilizations and inoculations on trees and shrubs that need an extra boost of nutrients to handle the additional level of stress.
  • Install an irrigation system, even if it’s just temporary plan, to ensure the trees remain properly hydrated.
  • Mark the perimeter of each Critical Root Zone with flags, and then have tree crews install snow fencing as a visual and physical boundary for all workers on the property.
  • Install several inches of wood chips or mulch to protect the Critical Root Zone from contamination during the construction process.
  • Periodically check in at the project site to ensure fencing is not compromised and construction crews are staying clear of critical areas.

If you are planning a construction project and have trees that you would like protected, please call us, this is a service we feel very strongly about and we would love to help! 914-725-0441.



Last year, 2017, proved to be an overly active year for storms, and in many places the destruction is still felt. This year, we are taking an entirely new, proactive approach to storm preparation for our customers’ properties. The strategy can be summarized into three main pillars: Early action, thorough inspections and a multi-pronged treatment approach.

Early action

While many people focus their energy on preparing for “winter storm season,” Emerald Tree & Shrub Care has learned in our 20-plus years of doing business that hurricanes, tornadoes and fall nor’easter storms can be just as damaging during their peak season in August, September and October.  Our goal, is to get out for storm prep inspections in the first 2 weeks of August.

Thorough inspections

When walking the property, our main objective is to determine which limbs and trees overall pose a risk of failure in a high-wind storm. It’s important to note that it is impossible to accurately predict when and if a tree will fail, but as arborists, we know many symptoms that can lead to a tree’s failure. Below is a list of red flags we look for.

Overall structure: The appropriate branch size for a mature tree is approximately two-thirds the diameter of the trunk. Ideally, with large shade trees we like to see one dominant trunk (leader) growing up to the top of the canopy.

A leaning tree can sometimes be a completely natural occurrence and no cause for concern. It could be the tree adjusting itself for better sunlight. However, it could also be the result of a weakened root system or previous storm damage. It’s important to examine these trees closely, looking for cracks in the trunk, dropped branches, heaving root systems and other signs of failure.

Weak limbs: A limb without bark or leaves or with dead leaves is a sign of dead wood. These are the top priority to remove, because with no life inside, they become brittle and are unable to bend or sway with the wind. These branches will crack and fall very easily during a storm.

Limbs with wounds, holes or cavities could be a sign that infection has entered the tree, causing decay. When a limb has grown larger than the trunk, it is typically beyond the normal weight that can be supported by the tree.

Root health: When you see exposed root zones that are not protected by a layer of earth, you must be concerned about their strength. Severed or damaged roots can occur when a structure, street or path is built within the tree’s root zone. Signs of severed roots are seeing one side of the tree declining or dying, fungal fruiting bodies or scarification of the buttress root area.

Once an inspection is complete, it is then our job to determine the necessary course of action. It’s important to remember that mature trees also serve to provide protection to our homes during high-wind storms. While a homeowner might want to remove all mature trees out of fear of them failing, we must explain that they provide a significant buffer that can protect properties from heavy wind damage during storms

Multi-faceted action plan

Once weak or at-risk trees are identified on a client’s property, we develop a storm-prep proposal for each property given its unique needs. The plans are scalable but comprehensive, including everything recommended to minimize risk from storm damage in the coming year. Below are a list of the services likely to appear on a storm prep proposal.

  • Pruning out deadwood and weakened branches
  • Cabling or bracing overgrown limbs or dual trunks
  • Fertilization and watering to ensure trees have proper nutrients to stay strong all winter long
  • Removal of trees that are considered hazardous and won’t likely weather the storms

If we’ve learned anything from last year’s storms, it’s that you can never be too prepared for what Mother Nature will throw at you. Proactive storm preparation is probably not on your list of things to do this summer, but it’s our duty as arborists to alert you to any risks and help keep your properties safe year-round. If you are interested in having an arborists inspect your trees, call us at 914-725-0441.

A Proactive Approach to Storm Preparation

Summertime.. And the trees are needy!

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Summertime is here, and your trees needs a few things from you.  Here is a short list of how to care for your precious greens throughout these hot summer months.
Prune: Overgrown trees and shrubs are a big problem in summer heat because there is not enough fresh air circulating throughout the branches. A common misconception is that all pruning should happen during dormant periods, meaning the winter. This is false. Summer is a very beneficial time to prune trees, as it can be easier to identify weak branches when they slump from the weight of newly formed leaves. Also, summer is the ideal time to prune flowering trees and shrubs since they have not yet begun to form new buds. The general rule of thumb is to prune flowering trees and shrubs immediately after their blooms die. If you procrastinate, you run the risk of cutting off new buds which will mean fewer flowers for the following year.
Treat for insects: Unfortunately, with warmer weather comes more pests, and we don’t just mean ticks and mosquitos, but the thousands of different bug varieties that can spread diseases to your beloved plants & trees. Most of the time, identifying an infestation requires a trained eye. Sometimes the bugs themselves are not visible so our Plant Health Care Technicians have to rely on symptoms such as leaf spotting, cracked bark or crown die-off. When it comes to insects, the best thing you can do is get in front of the risk with preventative care before a problem arises. At Emerald Tree and Shrub Care, we are extremely knowledgeable of all insect threats and can prescribe a treatment plan that will keep infestations at bay all summer long.
Water: Just like humans, plants too require nourishment in the form of H2O during hot summer days. It’s important to make sure your plants and trees receive enough water, especially those that were planted in the last couple of years. An optimal amount of water for a tree or shrub is about 1-2 inches of water each week; just enough to reach all of the roots, both shallow and deep. Be careful not to overwater, as this could cause root rot, wilted leaves due to lack of oxygen or a condition called Edema, when the plant cells fill with water and actually burst. Every plant and shrub is different, so it’s important to research the specific needs of your variety or consult with an arborist.
Storm damage prevention: Summer is the season for thunderstorms and heavy winds. To protect your property from falling tree limbs, consult with an arborist to assess the safety of your large trees. Cabling or bracing trees with weak limbs, or removing weak limbs completely, may be necessary.
Tick and Mosquito Control: What good is a backyard if you can’t enjoy it during the summer? To combat insect-borne diseases and viruses like Lyme, West Nile, Powassan and Zika in our own backyards, Emerald offers safe and effective mosquito and tick protection programs. We have organic options that are safe for your children and pets. In fact, you can go back to enjoying your outdoor space within 15 minutes of us spraying. Call us for a free estimate today!
Tree health diagnosis: Summer gives us the best opportunity to identify tree health problems. Diagnosis of the actual cause of the tree malady is a tricky business, best left to an expert. As with human illness, prompt detection and treatment can be critical. If you are unsure whether your tree is healthy or can withstand the next storm, consult our professional arborists who can identify and remove hazards as well as treat tree health problems.
Questions about your tree care needs, plant health care or other services we provide?  Please call us at (914)725-0441 or email us at

Topping is for Ice Cream, Not Trees

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Tree Topping Fiction vs. Facts

Definition: Tree Topping – the removal of main tree branches to stubs in either a straight-across hedge fashion or a complete delimbing of the tree, leaving only the main trunk or trunks of a tree.

Fiction: “Topping rejuvenates the tree.”

Fact: Tree topping usually removes so much of the tree’s crown that it can unbalance an older tree’s root-to-shoot ratio and temporarily cut off its ability to make food. When trees are topped, they will typically respond by readily growing new shoots. From that point forward they become high-maintenance. Most must be pruned regularly in an attempt to restore normal structure and growth. Pruning a tree annually is not environmentally sustainable or cost-effective. Your tree will also be more susceptible to disease and insect problems.

Fiction: “The tree is too big and casts too much shade, and needs to be reduced by topping.”

Fact: By their very nature, trees create shade, which means you really can’t plant anything underneath and expect full success. But in some instances, proper selective pruning, NOT topping, can reduce the bulk of a tree, letting in more light and allowing wind to pass through the tree. Proper pruning does not stimulate regrowth, and the tree will not respond as drastically as when topped or over-thinned. A qualified arborist is trained to understand which kinds of cuts to make (thinning cuts, not heading or topping cuts); he/ she also knows when to stop.

If problems caused by a tree cannot be solved through acceptable management practices, the tree should be removed and replaced with another species, or other plant material more appropriate for the site.

Fiction: “Topping a tree is cheaper than having it pruned.”

Fact: Initially, it might seem cheaper to cut the tree in half to get the result you are looking for. But over time the tree will require more frequent maintenance, and become a danger.

Drastic topping cuts create opportunities for epicormic shoots on the remaining trunk to grow quickly into large, poorly attached branches, if the tree doesn’t just die outright. The potential for them to break off and cause a hazard to property or people is very high. From a legal standpoint, the owner or owners of such a tree may be responsible for damages if it can be proved they were negligent. Incorrect pruning can cause trees to become hazardous, and therefore is negligence.

Fiction: Topping is a time-tested way to prune a tree.

Fact: Topping is not a standard practice, and in fact is “outlawed” by national tree care standards. Topping has always been controversial. If someone tells you they have always done it that way, it’s a good bet they aren’t up to speed with the latest, scientific tree care methods.

Fiction: A banana split with all the toppings is considered a serving of fruit.

Fact: We may not know diets, but we do know trees. Topping is for ice cream, not trees.

So how can you reduce a tree’s growth without the injurious effects of the “toppings?” Consult with a professional arborist who is bound by an industry code of ethics to provide proper pruning according to the profession’s tree care standards.