Winter 2019 Update


What to Prune in the Winter!

As we enter winter, trees and shrubs will enter a dormant phase to conserve energy. This is a great time to prune certain species of trees and shrubs since some plants will bleed sap excessively when they are not dormant. Here is a handy list of some plants that we recommend pruning in winter:


  • Late Winter: Hazel Corylus

  • Late Winter to Early Spring: Hydrangea


  • Winter: Maple Trees Acer

  • Winter: Serviceberry Trees Amelanchier

  • Late Fall to Early Winter Hickory Trees Carya

  • Early Winter to Early Spring: Chestnut Trees Castanea

  • Late Fall to Early Spring: Bean Trees Catalpa

  • Late Fall to Late Spring: Katsura Trees Cercidiphyllum

  • Fall to Early Spring: Dogwood Trees Cornus

  • Fall to Early Spring: Beech Trees Fagus

  • Fall to Early Spring: Ash Trees Fraxinus

  • Fall to Winter: Honey Locust Trees Gleditsia

  • Fall to Early Spring: Crape Myrtles Lagerstroemia

  • Late Fall to Early Spring: Sweetgum Trees Liquidambar

  • Fall to Early Spring: Tulip Trees Liriodendron

  • Fall to Early Spring: Crabapple Trees Malus

  • Fall to Early Spring: Tupelo Trees Nyssa

  • Winter to Early Spring: Princess Trees Paulownia

  • Fall to Early Spring: Plane and Sycamore Trees Platanus

  • Fall to Early Spring: Pear Trees Pyrus

  • Winter to Early Spring: Oak Trees Quercus

  • Fall to Early Spring: Willow Trees Salix

  • Fall to Early Spring: Elm Trees Ulmus

  • Late Winter: Zelkova Trees

    Brickell, C. and Joyce, D. (1996). The American Horticultural Society Pruning and Training. New York, London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.


Trees That Can Be Planted In Winter

Despite most plantings being done in spring, winter is also a good time to plant deciduous trees since it is easier to recover from a dormant state rather than an active state. For example, when planted during spring, plants are in an active state, meaning they are putting out new growth. This combined with the stress of being planted can stunt growth. The following trees we have planted in winter with success:

Ornamental Trees (Less than 25 Feet):

  • Amelanchier This genus of native trees provides fruit for birds, has white flowers in the spring and attractive fall color!

  • Cercis canadensis Unique native tree in the pea family, has small clusters of pink flowers and heart shaped leaves.

  • Malus Flowers in the spring and produces fruit late summer to fall.

  • Crataegus viridis A native tree that blooms white flowers in the spring and has small red orange berries in the fall that lasts into winter.

  • Cotinus coggygria This is more of a shrub than a tree. It blooms in the summer with unique fluffy smoke-like flowers. Some varieties come in purple.

  • Cotinus obovatus A native version of Cotinus coggygria. It is more of a small tree compared to Cotinus coggygria. 

  • Cornus florida Native dogwood with spring flowers, red fall fruit that feeds migrating birds, and dark fall color. 

  • Cornus kousa Species of dogwood native to East Asia. Also has spring flowers, fruit and fall color. 

  • Cornus officinalis Species of dogwood native to East Asia that blooms clusters of small yellow flowers in spring. It produces red fruits in the fall and has fall color. 

  • Lagerstroemia Blooms in the summer with large clusters of flowers and has interesting bark pattern. 

  • Magnolia virginiana A semi-evergreen tree that blooms white flowers in the summer and produces a large red fruit in the fall. 

  • Prunus 'Okame' An early blooming cherry tree with dark pink flowers in the spring and fall color. 

  • Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan' A popular spring blooming double flowered cherry tree. Also has fall color.

  • Prunus x yedoensis Flowers in the spring with light pink to white flowers. Also has fall color. 

Medium Trees (35' - 50'):

  • Carpinus betulus A neat formal tree native to Europe with interesting bark texture and fall color. 

  • Carpinus caroliniana A native tree similar to Carpinus betulus but can handle a variety of light conditions. 

  • Styphnolobium Provides small fragrant white flowers in the summer and can tolerate city conditions. 

Large Trees (Greater than 50 Feet):

  • Betula nigra A native tree tolerant of wet site conditions and has unique white peeling bark.

  • Ginkgo biloba A living fossil tree with fan shaped leaves that turn yellow in the fall. It is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and city conditions. 

  • Tilia cordata Provides fragrant clusters of white spring flowers and is tolerant of city conditions. It attracts pollinators and has yellow fall color. 

  • Gymnocladus dioicus Can tolerate poor soils and dry conditions. Has large compound leaves and has unique seedpods in the fall. 

  • Zelkova serrata A hardy tree tolerant of drought and city conditions with a neat fan-like branching. Leaves turn yellow to orange in the fall.



Leave the Leaves

Fall has descended upon us and will depart later today after leaving many leaves behind.  Here at Arborpolitan, we have spent the past season performing a significant amount of yard cleanup, which traditionally tends to entail a lot of leaf clean up, even though Autumn leaf fall is gold for the garden floor.   
This past October, two of our crew members had the opportunity to participate in a NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) Accreditation Course in Portland, Maine and it helped to remind, reinforce and introduce organic and sustainable methods of land care.  One of the best things you can do when preparing your garden for the winter months is to leave the leaves on the ground.  If you have ever taken a hike in the woods you will notice the leaves stay on the ground and create a blanket for the forest floor beneath the trees.  This cozy blanket of leaf litter is a little world unto itself, doing amazing things for the soil and the life within it.

-    Fallen leaves act as a natural mulch that helps suppress weeds. 
-    Fallen leaves fertilize the soil as they breakdown, creating a layer of organic matter that increases the water holding capacity of the soil, feeds soil microbes, helps break down toxins, pollutants and suppresses disease and increases the soils productivity.
-    Butterfly and moth species overwinter as pupae in the leaf litter and these invertebrates provide a range of environmental benefits, pollination and pest control.  Many other invertebrates (snails, beetles, bees, etc.) use leaves as a habitat and a food source.  
Leaving the leaves on your garden beds is the best and easiest way to compost your leaves and keep them out of the landfill, where they will just go to waste and this rich carbon source is anything but. 

We have begun to leave the leaves when performing Fall clean up as an ecological measure.  It is the most beneficial for your soil and one of many best practices of organic landscaping.   

Although we will not be removing leaves in the fall, you may want to and that is perfectly fine.  There are options out there for you and here are a few of them, but do remember this is purely aesthetic and you are robbing your soil and its microbes of precious nutrients.

City of New York Organics Collection Program
If you live in a neighborhood that is a part of the Organics Collection Program and you have a brown plastic bin, you can put your leaves out in your brown bin or in paper yard waste bags on your brown bin collection day.

City of New York Leaf Collection Neighborhoods
If you live in a neighborhood that is a part of the Leaf Collection Area, you will receive an early Fall mailer, from the Department of Sanitation, letting you know when you can put your paper yard waste bags out on the curb.

No City Leaf Collection in Your Neighborhood
If you're up for it, you can compost the leaves yourself in a DIY leaf bin and then you will have leaf mulch for the upcoming season.  You can also find a community garden near you that composts food scraps, these gardens are often looking for more carbon sources; you will have to transport the leaves to them.   

There are so many ways to save this amazing resource and it's never too late to start.  Happy end of Fall and Happy beginning of Winter!

Resources and References

Justin Rawson