Custom Pruning

Tree Before Pruning

As a full-service tree company, we spend a lot of time taking down or removing dead wood from large, unsafe trees. This is an important part of tree care, but we also take pride in our crews that specialize in custom pruning of small trees and shrubs. This par – ticular aspect of our services, we feel, is unrivaled.

When custom pruning, health, beauty, vigor and plant longevity are the four goals we focus on. Every species of tree or shrub has different characteristics that need to be taken into account.

For example, boxwoods and crab – apples are prone to disease, and a primary concern when pruning them is to remove diseased branches in a way that prevents the disease from spreading to the rest of the plant. Lilacs need to have old growth removed in order to increase vigor and flower production. Flowering shrubs, such as azaleas and rhododendrons, should be pruned after flowering if they are going to be cut back significantly. Crape myrtles should be pruned in late winter or early spring because of their susceptibility to winter damage.

Hedge pruning also requires a combination of experience and craftsmanship. If a hedge is simply sheared without any allowance for sunlight penetration to the lower and inner branches, it will eventually become sparse, overgrown, and ragged looking.

The management of a garden is an art form that requires experience, knowledge, and an eye for beauty. We believe that our excellent custom pruning distinguishes McFarland managed properties from others.

Custom Pruning

McFarland has maintained this beautiful Japanese Cutleaf Maple for over 25 years—an example of how proper custom pruning increases plant beauty, vigor and longevity.


Mulch comes in various forms. Here to assist you are the main options and their pros and cons frpm McFarland Tree Service:


Wood chips are a good choice for mulching paths or areas with a lot of ground to cover. Chips often can be obtained for free from tree and utility companies, arborists, and municipal yard-waste facilities. Wood mulches should not be used in garden beds or locations near the house due to termites and other destructive insects that may be living in them. A popular low-cost choice for wood chip mulch is made from construction wastes and wood pallets, however they should not be used in vegetable gardens due to possible industrial contaminants.


Typically sold as shredded pieces, bark decomposes slowly but stays in place. Options include hardwood or softwood. Common hardwood types include hickory, oak, and elm. Softwood bark, such as pine, fir and redwood, decompose more slowly than hardwood. For garden beds with perennials and shrubs, or where you don’t turn the soil often, you can use mulch materials that break down slowly.


Durability is both the appeal and the drawback of stones as mulch. They stay put and don’t degrade, however they do nothing to improve the soil. Stones or gravel are best used in paths or around trees and shrubs about one inch deep for weed control and water permeability. During hot weather, stones or rocks can radiate heat and cause extreme temperatures, resulting in water loss and severe plant stress.


If weed control is your goal, shredded leaves are your star, especially in garden beds. Leaves from just about any deciduous tree work well. Contrary to popular belief, leaves such as oak will not acidify the soil. Oak leaves are acidic when they’re fresh, but they lose acidity as they decompose.

Leaves should be coarsely shred or chopped by running over them with a lawn mower to prevent matting or blowing away. When you dig into soil that’s been mulched with leaves, you’ll find lots of plump earthworms—nature’s finest fertilizer for your garden.

GRASS CLIPPINGS Grass clippings are a treat for vegetable, annual, and herb gardens, because you can get them from your own yard (though never use grass that has been treated with herbicide). Grass clippings decompose quickly, especially in very hot weather, so reapply them often. For best results, allow them to dry before spreading. Both leaves and grass should be applied two inches deep and replenished as needed. Grass clippings and shredded leaves provide a natural mulch. They breakdown much more quickly than bark or wood chips and offer more nutrients to the soil.


When you dig into soil that’s been mulched with leaves, you’ll find lots of plump earthworms—nature’s finest fertilizer for your garden. Spring is the best time for mulching trees, shrubs and planting beds when Landscaping. Mulching offers many benefits, including weed control, retention of soil moisture, and improvement of the overall aesthetics of the landscape. Mulch helps maintain uniform soil temperatures, minimizing damage during drought conditions in summer and root freeze in winter.

Save Our Beech Trees from Phytophthora

Weeping European Beech tree

Many Beeches we see in Pennsylvania have become infected and have died from this treatable disease, resulting in the needless loss of these once magnificent trees.

Phytophthora is a name some of you may not be familiar with, while its devastating effects you may know well. It’s a fungus that affects many trees and shrubs, often resulting in major losses each year. With spring rains it spreads in the soil, usually around when leaf and flower buds open. It targets new and stressed plants with poor drainage conditions and is one of the most common root rot and canker causing pathogens in our landscape. A strain of this fungus caused the potato famine in Ireland. Symptoms vary with strain and species, but wet-bark staining, top or limb die-back, wilting, or loss of leaves are sure signs Phytophthora may be present in the soil.

Phytophthora example Beech treeFor sensitive plant species, such as Beech, Boxwood, Azaleas and Rhododendrons, poorly drained soil and irrigation should be monitored closely. Improvements such as diverting water runoff and pooling with landscaping, and use of sprinkler/irrigation systems less often will also reduce the spread of the disease. Beech trees are of particular concern. Many Beeches we see in Pennsylvania have become infected and have died from this treatable disease, resulting in the needless loss of these once magnificent trees. McFarland offers treatments with proven success for both preventing and delaying the spread of this disease. Treatments consist of sprays and soil drenches for any tree or shrub that already has contracted Phytophthora. As well, we offer solutions and options for landscaping which can help prevent the disease. If you have concerns about this threat to plants on your property, please make an appointment with one of our Arborists so we can provide you with a strategy.

Fertilizing in Urban Landscapes

Why fertilize trees in urban and suburban landscape? In a forest—trees’ natural environment—trees self-feed through the natural process of leaf drop and dead wood decaying on a thick, nutrient-rich floor. In urban and suburban settings, the absence of this natural litter, diminishes the ability of trees to fight insects and disease. These settings also bring other stress factors, such as a higher average heat index, soil compaction due to sidewalks and parking lots, and pollutants, including winter’s excessive road salts. When a tree is out of its natural environment, we must take responsibility for its care and pick up where Mother Nature left off. Our job as arborists is to mirror nature as closely as possible by restoring the balance as best we can. Through a non-spray, sub-surface, fall fertilization program, administered periodically, nutrients are injected into the soil to encourage the root system’s ability for nutrient uptake which fortifies a tree’s ability to withstand stress.

Regulate Tree Growth

Rainbow Treecare

What is Cambistat?

Cambistat is the newest tree growth regulator with the active ingredient paclobutrazol. It is highly effective at reducing the growth rate of trees over a three year period, and thus is an excellent method of reducing tree maintenance costs. Extensive research and field trials have also shown that indirect effects on growth regulation can provide numerous health benefits for trees. By reducing the amount of energy allocated to shoot growth, more energy/carbon/substrates are available for other uses. Research has shown trees treated with Cambistat have the following responses:

  • Tree growth rate is reduced between 40 – 60 % for three years with one treatment of Cambistat®.
  • Root system enhancement
  • Improve drought and heat resistance
  • Higher tolerance to disease
  • Increase health and longevity

*Courtesy Rainbow Treecare

Cambistat® is a soil-applied tree growth regulator that reduces tree growth 40% to 60% over a three year period.

Cambistat Increases the Lifespan and Durability of Yard Trees

Cambistat works by making the tree more conservative. Slower growth rate means energy is shunted into increased root mass, increased defenses, thicker leaves, and increased storage. A slower growing tree needs fewer resources – including water, minerals and energy. This reduced resource need raises the threshold of stress needed to injure the tree. For many mature yard trees, the deficiency level of the growing site is already past this stress threshold. By reducing the tree’s growth rate – health and longevity can be restored.

*Courtesy Rainbow Treecare

Stimulating Fibrous Root Growth

Re-directing Excess Energy

When Cambistat reduces the growth rate of the tree, it frees up energy, carbon and other substrates that would have been used for that growth. These get shunted back into the tree and are available for use for other functions. One of the responses by the tree is an increase in fibrous root growth.

*Courtesy Rainbow Treecare

Cambistat increases fibrous root growth, but decreases woody root growth

Root to Shoot Ratio

A major issue with trees growing in lawns and other urban sites is a poor root to shoot ratio. This basically means that compared to trees growing in more natural settings, there is more top growth as compared to fibrous roots. This has obvious repercussions that lead to trees that are more prone to stress. By reducing the top growth and increasing the fibrous root growth, applying Cambistat will increase this important ratio.

Linden on the right was treated in 1992 to keep it out of the powerlines. The untreated tree was across the street

*photo courtesy of Dr. Bill Chaney – Purdue University

Where Do Arborists Use Cambistat?

Cambistat is used in many situations. Here are some examples.

  • Increase time needed between prunings
  • Enhance root development in chlorotic trees
  • Stimulate root growth when roots are severed
  • Stabilize slow declining trees
  • Improve defense to certain diseases
  • Maintain trees near buildings
  • Reduce growth of trees near power lines
  • Extend longevity of trees in sites with limited resources
  • Enhance durability and longevity of mature trees
  • Improve durability of transplanted trees over 4″ in diameter
  • Help preserve trees after construction injury
  • Pre-stress conditioning before construction, drought, etc.
  • Minimize damage caused by drought to weakened trees

To discover more about the brilliance of Cambistat follow this link:

Have more questions about Cambistat? Just fill out this form or call our number below.

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Oak Trees Threatened by Bacterial Leaf Scorch

Tree lovers recall with sadness the loss of the American Elm to Dutch Elm Disease and the American Chestnut to Chestnut Blight. Now another very destructive disease is threatening another popular tree- the Red and Pin Oaks.

The disease, called bacterial leaf scorch, is caused by a bacterium called Xyllela fastidiosa, which is spread from plant to plant by a group of insects known as leaf hoppers.

The bacteria reside in the water conducting vessels of the tree, and as their numbers increase they physically block the flow of water upward from the roots, causing the leaves to turn brown prematurely. Within a five-year period, the disease will kill the tree if left untreated. In summer, the foliage of an entire canopy can look like that pictured right. Presently, this disease cannot be eradicated with current chemicals and management practices in use. Infected trees can be injected with an antibiotic (oxytetracycline) which will suppress the symptoms for one year. Trees must be re-injected yearly or the symptoms will reoccur. Regular fertilization, irrigation, and mulching of Red and Pin Oaks is also recommended. We also believe it is appropriate to try and suppress the leaf hopper insects that transmit the disease.

Since these two varieties of oak constitute approximately 10 percent of all trees in the Philadelphia area, this disease is particularly ominous. Right now, our only hope in saving these trees lies in the research community, which has yet to come up with a cure. Meanwhile, you can rely on us to do our best to keep the trees alive.