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Easy Hedge Care and Hedge Repair Guide


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Tree Services in Toronto » Hedge Care » Easy Hedge Care and Hedge Repair Guide

Easy Hedge Care and Hedge Repair Guide

When it comes to hedge care, homeowners have a variety of options to choose from in order to maintain their property’s aesthetic appeal and overall health. At Vista Tree, we specialize in maintaining hedges and repairing both regular and high value hedges and shrubs of all types.

To get a better understanding of what is involved in hedge care and hedge maintenance, we’ll explain the various types of hedges found in Toronto. We’ll get into different pruning techniques, optimal times for maintenance, tips on repairing damaged hedges as well as essential equipment needed to achieve the lushest hedges.

Hedge Care How To: Best Hedges Types for Toronto

In Toronto, homeowners and commercial properties love to use hedges to add privacy and beauty to their yards. Some popular hedge varieties include cedars, beeches, yews, hornbeams and boxwoods. Each type has unique characteristics and requirements for proper trimming and maintenance.

Cedars: Fast-growing evergreens perfect for privacy screens

Cedar hedges are a top choice in Toronto due to their fast growth rate and ability to provide excellent privacy screening. These evergreen trees have dense foliage that can block out noise pollution while also serving as an attractive backdrop for your property.

Emerald Cedars are one of the most popular forms of hedges, followed by Eastern White Cedar and Black Cedar. There are many different kinds of cedar trees and hedges, with their own quirks, pros and cons. 

Emerald Cedars are beautiful and prized for their lush green colour and stately shape. They are often planted in rows to create a privacy screen and are widely available. However, they can be very difficult to keep alive in the wrong conditions and tend to break under snow or wind weight.

Standard cedars are also used for privacy screening and will grow in shade, but be much fuller and vibrant in full sun.

Regular cedar tree maintenance is essential to maintain the desired shape and size of cedar hedges. Every few years, cleaning out the interior the cedars is recommended, particularly Emerald Cedars. Due to the way they grow, cedars tend to shed needles on the inside which can build up over time. As they build up the needles restricts airflow, promotes rotting or mould and can become home to pests.

Beeches: Deciduous trees with attractive foliage throughout the year

Beech trees make stunning deciduous hedges that display vibrant colors during different seasons. In spring, their leaves emerge with a soft green hue before turning into coppery shades come autumn. Beeches require regular pruning to encourage healthy growth patterns while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

These hedges come in a variety of colours. They can grow in many conditions, but are also prone to pests like wooly aphids which can be an aesthetic and health issue.

Yews: Dense evergreen shrubs suitable for formal hedging

Yew shrubs, another variety native to Toronto, create dense evergreen barriers ideal for formal garden designs or creating privacy around outdoor spaces like patios or poolsides. Their dark green needles remain lush all year round, and with proper care, yews can be shaped into various forms such as topiaries or archways. Professional tree service experts in Toronto can help you maintain the perfect shape for your yew hedges.

Boxwoods: Small-leaved evergreens ideal for low borders

Boxwood shrubs are versatile plants that thrive in Toronto’s climate conditions. They have small leaves and dense growth habits, making them an excellent choice for creating low borders around flower beds or walkways. Boxwoods respond well to regular trimming by Vista Tree Management arborists, which helps maintain their compact form while promoting healthy growth.

Unfortunately, boxwoods are also prone to a number of significant pests that can damage their appearance or kill them. Boxwood moth, leaf miner and mites have both negative aesthetic and health impacts while psyllids cause aesthetic problems. These pests recur yearly or multiple times a year, requiring pesticide treatment to suppress.

We include boxwoods on this list due to their popularity in the City and for their use in formal garden aesthetics, but recommend against planting them without doing your research into the ongoing financial and environmental cost.

Key Takeaway:  Toronto homeowners and commercial properties use hedges to add privacy and beauty to their outdoor spaces. Popular hedge varieties include cedars, beeches, yews, and boxwoods – each with unique characteristics requiring proper trimming and maintenance. Regular hedge trimming is essential for maintaining the desired shape and size of any hedge or shrub.

Best Hedges to Plant in Toronto (With links!)Evergren Hedges f

Eastern White Cedar – Most Common Tree In Toronto

Thuja occidentalis (Eastern White Cedar) is the most common tree in Toronto according to the City of Toronto Urban Forestry Department because of it’s use by homeowners for hedges on their property. These cedars are often called “swamp cedars” and are hardy to Zone 2. If you’re planting for a cedar hedge vs. a cedar tree, you’re going to want to look for field grown cedars with a single stem due to the potential for splitting or separating we discuss below.

Cedars need good drainage so if you live in the Scarborough bluffs or Guildwood area with clay, you’ll struggle to grow these plants without removing and replacing most of your soil. Likewise, if you are planting these hedges under a mature tree, on a newly renovated or built property or in areas with heavy compaction and poor drainage you’ll want to take extra care. Bayview, Forest Hill, Willowdale and other neighbourhoods in Toronto susceptible to flooding should be cautious!

Eastern White Cedars are native plants and are versatile, thriving in sun but doing well in partial shade as well. They need neutral to alkaline soil and can be sensitive to drought and waterlogged soil.

Cultivars

T. occidentalis ‘Degroot’s Spire’ height 3-4m, spread 1.2m

T. occidentalis ‘Nigra’ height to 5 m, spread to .5m fast growing with dark green foliage

Juniper

Juniperus spp. (Juniper) is hardy to Zone 4.

Cultivars

J. chinensis ‘Mountbatten’ height to 6 m, spread to 2m, sun, rapid growth with silver green foliage

J. chinensis ‘Spartan’ height to 4m, spread to 1.25m, sun and part shade

Pests/Diseases

Leaf miners, bark beetles, scale, and caterpillars are potential pests. Rust and blight are also common.

Pruning

Young junipers can be lightly sheared to make them thicken out. Do not trim into the hard wood.

Integrated Pest Management

Cedar-Apple Rust is a fungus that infects and alternates between a juniper and apple trees growing within several hundred metres of each other. Solution is to not plant these trees within these distances. Remove any galls as soon as they appear in late summer. Bark beetles are attracted to trees under stress. Water trees during drought and fertilize if growth is substandard.

Spruce

Picea spp. (Spruce) is hardy to Zone 3. Native

Cultivars

P. glauca ‘Conica’ (Alberta dwarf) height 4m, spread 1.5m Neat cone shape. Makes a good formal hedge.

Pests/Diseases

Sawfly, mites, bagworms and scale are common. Diseases may include rust.

Pruning

Very minimal as growth is slow.

Integrated Pest Managment

Bagworms can be picked off by hand or Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) can be sprayed (may need repeat application). Mites are most common in hot weather especially if tree is close to a surface that reflects heat. Use insecticidal soap spray.

Yew

Taxus spp. (Yew) is hardy to Zone 4. Will tolerate shade or sun.

A better low-maintenance choice that will grow very well in shadier conditions would be either an Upright Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata ‘Capitata’) or a Hick’s Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’). Both have dense upright habits. Nevertheless, they will require minimal pruning occasionally to maintain a nice hedge shape once they are established.  Yews are generally slower-growing than the white cedars; attaining a 10-ft. height would depend upon how tall the plants are when they are purchased. And the distance from the fence that they should be planted will depend upon the expected growth width of the plants within a few years.

Cultivars

T. media ‘Hicksii’ height 2.5m, spread 1 m. Upright columnar form, dark green foliage with inedible red berries

T. media ‘Densiformis’ height 2 m. A slow growing compact cultivar ideal for low hedge

T. cuspidata ‘Aurescens’ height/spread to 1.5m. Green needles with bright gold tips, plant in full sun for best color

Pests/Diseases

Black vine weevil and scale are common.

Pruning

Trim in early spring before new shoots emerge.

Integrated Pest Management

Black vine weevil are nocturnal and do damage by feeding on leaves and roots during life cycle. Indicators of this pest include crescent shaped notches found on needles. Handpick at night. Pull back mulch to allow soil to dry out as weevils need moisture to survive. Introduce beneficial nematodes, when soil is at least 10C. Soil must be kept moist for nematodes to survive.

Boxwood

Buxus spp. (Boxwood) is hardy to Zone 4. Boxwood will grow in sun or shade and makes a good small hedge.

Cultivars

B. ‘Green Mountain’ Height 1.5m, spread 1m. Upright with dark green foliage

B.’Green Velvet’ Height 1m, spread 1m. Retains rich green color in winter

B. microphylla koreana ‘Winter Beauty’ Height 1.25m, spread 1m. Rich blue green foliage all year

Pests/Diseases

Boxwood psyllid, Box tree moth, leafminer, scale and mites are potential pests. Box tree moth caterpillars are invasive and feed exclusively on boxwoods and can severely damage and kill the plants. An alternative native plant to consider is Ilex glabra (inkberry).

Pruning

Slow growing, annual pruning to maintain shape

Integrated Pest Management

Root rot may appear if planted in compacted or poorly drained soil. For control of mites, scale and psyllid, use horticultural oil or insecticidal soap sprays in early spring before plants put on new growth. Plants with a heavy infestation of scale may require pruning.

Common Hedge Problems and How to Fix Them

There are many different types of hedges that can have their own particular sets of common problems. However, we find that we hear a lot about the issues below regardless of the type of hedge, shrub or tree.

How can I fix my Split or Separating Hedge?

If your hedges are split or separating, it is likely because the are too tall, too flat or too structurally compromised to support the weight of the hedge sections or leaves. That, or they’ve experienced some sort of damage like snow or ice building up and causing damage.

Hedges that are too flat will act like a shelf for snow and ice. When the accumulation becomes too much, there will be damage and unevenness created, or whole sections broken under the weight. The solution is to modify the hedge, provide greater support to compromised stems and look at wrapping it over winter. Always knock snow off if you notice it building up!

When hedges aren’t regularly pruned or trimmed, they can grow too quickly. Since trees are heliotropic – meaning they grow towards the sun – hedges with lots of light can grow very quickly, and those with a small amount will grow towards wherever the light is best. New growth is generally very weak.

If the new growth is particularly heavy compared to how strong it is, this will result in splitting or separation of the hedge. What looked like one green shape prior to the separation will now look like multiple stems of different growth and is not very visually appealing. To fix this problem, weight must be reduced and structural wiring may need to be done.

Why is my Hedge Falling Over or Droopy?

This is a similar problem to separating or splitting hedges but is usually more pronounced and dramatic. This is what happens to taller hedges that have poor form. As they grow, their tops become heavy and can cause the hedge to come apart or fall over.

Hedges that have fallen over or are very droopy at the top may be able to be repaired. Never say never when it comes to hedges – there are some that cannot be saved but if it can be this will generally be better to do than replacing them.

Why?

Hedges take a long time to grow to the size that is more susceptible to this. In the time since it was grown the site conditions may have changed (like another tree growing up and shading the hedge) which may make it hard to replant and regrow another one and the same spot. Even properly planted hedges and trees sometimes struggle to survive depending on the conditions.

How do I repair a Patchy hedge or a hedge with holes?

Most common causes of patchy hedges: overaggressive pruning (see “too tall or too big”) below, lack of sunlight on the face or side of the hedge, failure to thrive due to too little water or nutrients. Individual species may also be infested with insects that are negatively impacting the vitality, in combination with one of the above issues.

Natural Self-Shading or Overgrowth Creates Patches

As hedges grow taller they will naturally shade themselves, particularly if they are grown in a box or wall style. This is because the plant is growing towards the sun, and the top has more access. As it grows bigger due to greater sunlight, it will shade the areas below it. One solution is to put a chamfer on the hedge, the other is to do a hedge renovation.

Cutting a Hedge Chamfer to Increase Sunlight

A chamfer is an angle cut into the top of the hedge that allows more light in but still gives the wall like appearance. This angle is gradual rather than abrupt, and also prevents the hedge from having issues with overhang or breakages from snow and feels more natural. 

Hedges that are cut at 90 degree angles will tend to have more separations, droop, patches or sparse areas. They can also feel imposing rather than visually pleasing while sitting under them. 

Hedge Renovation: A Dramatic “Reset”

Hedge Renovation as defined by the Royal Horticultural Society involves cutting back deciduous and evergreen hedges over the course of three years to reset their growth. It doesn’t work for every hedge type an dhas the chance of killing the hedge, but when one has become too overgrown or damaged it may be the only way to save a mature hedge.

Oh no, my hedge is turning brown!

Most common causes of hedges turning brown: poor planting or root damage, overwatering, under watering, fertilizer burn, disease or pest issues. 

Sadly, we get called to many jobs where clients have had hedges installed between 1-5 years prior that have died or have significant dieback. The culprit is usually poor planting, frequently the plants are just put in the ground with the burlap and wire still on from the nursery, covered up and left. The owners pay a big bill for a shoddy job that is only discovered years later.

Overwatering is also very common – too much and the roots will begin to rot. Root rot is also caused by pathogens and can be spread between plants, resulting in dieback.

Underwatering sometimes happens and looks very similar to overwatering. The only difference is the soil is dry. Since both result in the plant not getting enough water or nutrients, the cause looks similar. With overwatering, the roots rotting prevent uptake of water, with under watering, there is not enough water to sustain the plant.

Pests can also cause this, including mites and leaf miner, as well as moths. The species is the big determinant of which pest and how to fix it. A certified arborist and license exterminator should be able to identify and treat these issues.

Too little water or nutrients means the hedge is failing to thrive and grow as it doesn’t have the right nutrition. Since it is not getting enough, the hedge will naturally restrict new growth to conserve limited energy for existing growth. Overtime this can make it appear thin and unhealthy.

The first signs of this would be loss of verdancy or green, visible when standing back and looking from afar a sort of yellowish tinge (for green plants) or a paler hue for other colours.

Help, My hedge is Too Tall! (or Losing Ideal Shape)

As the hedge grows over time, it stretches up or out further and further. Each time it grows and adds new foliage, more shade is created on the interior of the hedge. Eventually, foliage will start to decrease and drop off from the interior leaving only wood on the inside and a thin layer of green on the outside.

Cutting back these hedges is hard because the inside is bare with only a small layer of green on the outside. A giant, healthy looking hedge is more like a bubble of green (empty inside) than a solid mass of green leaves or needles. Once you break the outer layer – pop! – the lushness is gone.

To reduce these hedges in height or spread, selective pruning and reductions must be made. This may need to occur over the course of a few years depending on how significant a size reduction is necessary.

Hedge Pruning Techniques

Pruning hedges in Toronto can be a daunting task, but with the right techniques and knowledge, even the most challenging hedges can be tamed. Proper pruning methods for evergreen hedges ensure healthy growth while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Here are some common practices:

Selective Hedge Pruning: Improving structure by removing specific branches

Selective pruning involves carefully removing individual branches that may be dead, diseased, or causing overcrowding within the hedge. This technique promotes better air circulation and light penetration for healthier plant growth.

Selective pruning may also allow for greater sunlight penetration into the centre of hedges that have overgrown – this advanced structuring technique takes time and patience. This allows for new growth further inside the hedge, which may allow for overgrown sections to be cut back. Cutting back hedges to the point there is no foliage will ruin the hedge, and it is unlikely to recover.

If selective pruning is utilized to fix overgrown hedges, it can take multiple iterations of pruning the hedge over the course of a few years to create the desired density and foliage growth nessecary to reshape or restructure the hedge. This allows us to save mature hedges and reshape prized hedges, but is not a quick fix.

Hedge Shearing: Creating a neat and uniform appearance

Shearing is the process of cutting back all branches evenly along the entire length of the hedge. This method creates a neat and uniform appearance but should be done with caution as excessive shearing can lead to sparse foliage and reduced vigor over time. This is often what people refer to as “trimming a hedge.”

Shearing involves taking between 1-3 inches off the “faces” or sides of a hedge using a power hedge trimmer. It should not result in cutting back to sticks or all the foliage gone. If it does, you’ve cut too far and may have issues regrowing the lost greenery, creating holes and patches.

Reducing Height: Lowering during dormancy

Reducing the height involves cutting down taller sections of your hedge to create a more balanced look or reduce its overall size without compromising its health. It’s best performed during late winter or early spring before new growth begins so that plants have ample time to recover from any stress caused by this process.

This should not be done in the middle of summer. At this stage, the hedge is in-between growth phases and will not immediately begin putting on new growth like they do in spring and to a lesser degree in the fall. Summertime sun can also be extremely hot, and cutting back the part of the hedge that provides the most shade can alter the conditions it is growing in very abruptly.

This should not be done by simply picking a point and cutting a hedge down to it. This practice is called topping, and it is generally a very bad idea. Hedges and trees won’t necessarily recover from having too much cut at once, and if they do it can create other issues – worst case you’ll kill it in a relatively short time.

Instead, this is like selective pruning in that you need to identify the branches and stems to remove first and make appropriate cuts to take them out while still having foliage on top. In other words, you’re going to cut back the top but leave enough for it to properly regrow. Then, light shearing to tidy and straighten can be done.

Significant height reductions are best achieved over the course of 1-3 years rather than in one session. This allows time for the plant to regrow.

Key Takeaway:  Toronto hedge trimming can be made easy with the right techniques. Selective pruning, shearing and topping/reducing height are common practices that promote healthy growth while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing appearance. It’s important to consider factors such as the type of hedge, its purpose in your landscape and desired outcome when choosing a technique.

Best Time for Hedge Maintenance in Toronto

Trimming hedges is like giving them a haircut – timing is everything. To keep your hedges healthy and looking sharp, it’s essential to know when to trim them. Here’s a guide to help you determine the best time for hedge trimming in Toronto.

Light Hedge Maintenance: Spring & Early Summer

For routine maintenance and minor shape adjustments, it’s best to trim your hedges during the spring and early summer months. This is when new growth begins, allowing your hedges to recover quickly from any pruning. Light trimming encourages healthy growth and helps maintain a neat appearance throughout the growing season.

  • Tip: Avoid heavy pruning during this period as it can stress your plants and lead to unwanted side effects such as reduced flowering or weakened foliage.

Shaping & Significant Size Reductions: Late Winter / Early Spring

If you need to reshape your hedges or significantly reduce their size, the ideal time is during dormancy – usually late winter or early spring before buds start forming. Pruning at this time allows you to make more substantial cuts without causing excessive stress on your plants since they’re not actively growing yet. Additionally, with leaves absent from deciduous hedges like beeches, it’s easier for you (and professional arborists) to see the structure of your hedge clearly and make precise cuts accordingly.

  • Tip: When pruning during dormancy, be mindful of the City of Toronto’s tree bylaws, which may require a permit for certain types of trimming or removal.

In summary, trimming your hedges at the right time is crucial for their health and appearance. Light maintenance should be done in spring and early summer, while more significant shaping or size reductions are best performed during late winter or early spring before bud out.

By following these guidelines and working with professional arborists like those at Vista Tree Management, you can ensure that your hedges receive proper care throughout the year.

Key Takeaway:  Knowing the best time for hedge trimming in Toronto is crucial to keep them healthy and looking sharp. Light maintenance should be done during spring and early summer, while significant shaping or size reductions are best performed during late winter or early spring before bud out. Professional arborists can help you make precise cuts accordingly and ensure that your hedges receive proper care throughout the year.

Damaged Hedge Repair Tips

Harsh weather conditions can damage your hedges, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Follow these tips to repair your damaged hedges and keep them healthy all year round.

Assessing Damaged Hedges: Identifying Broken or Weakened Branches

The first step in repairing a damaged hedge is assessing the extent of the damage. Look for broken or split branches that may be hanging down or leaning on other parts of the plant. If you’re unsure about whether a branch needs removal, consult with an expert arborist from Vista Tree Management. They can help determine which limbs need pruning and provide guidance on how best to repair your hedge.

Immediate Action: Pruning Damaged Areas to Prevent Worsening

If you find any damaged sections in your hedges, take immediate action by carefully pruning away affected branches using sharp tools like hand shears or electric trimmers. Be sure not to cut too close to healthy growth as this could lead to additional stress on the plant.

  • Clean Cuts: Make clean cuts at an angle just above a bud or lateral branch when removing deadwood; this will encourage new growth and minimize potential disease entry points. Cut perpendicular to the angle of growth, creating a flat stub rather than a slanted stub.
  • Safety Gear: Wear protective glasses or goggles – when cutting something above you those branches can come down fast with the point first. One unlucky cut and you could have a serious problem.
  • Avoid Over-Pruning: It’s crucial not only to remove visibly damaged portions but also to avoid excessive trimming since doing so might weaken overall structure and health.
  • If you’re not sure, ask before cutting: It can’t be glued back together!
  • Using Rope or Wire: Using rope or wire to support damage can be done temporarily but long term it needs to be installed correctly or can actually result in more problems (or not enough support). This is where arborists can be of assistance after the initial patch job as this is a bit more complicated than you might think to do right.

More Extensive Hedge Repairs

In some cases, more extensive repairs may be necessary, such as structural pruning, wiring or “renovation” to provide additional support for weakened hedges. If you’re unsure about the best course of action, consult with a professional tree care company like Vista Tree Management who can assess your situation and recommend appropriate solutions.

Maintaining healthy hedges is an ongoing process that requires regular attention and care. By monitoring their condition closely, addressing any issues promptly, and enlisting help from experts when needed, homeowners in Toronto can enjoy beautiful and functional greenery all year round.

Key Takeaway:  To repair damaged hedges, assess the extent of damage by identifying broken or weakened branches and consult with an arborist if necessary. Take immediate action by pruning affected areas to prevent worsening, but avoid over-pruning as it may weaken overall structure and health. For more extensive repairs, seek help from professional tree care companies.

Professional hedge care and hedge repair in Toronto

Save time and effort by hiring professional tree experts for your hedge trimming needs in Toronto. These specialists have experience with various plant species and local climate conditions, ensuring optimal results for your landscape.

Each hedge species in Toronto requires specific care and maintenance techniques. Maintaining a beautiful hedge requires regular trimming, which can be time-consuming for busy homeowners. Vista Tree Management offers efficient service without sacrificing quality. Their extensive experience leads to faster completion and better results, with no cleanup required on your part.

  • Faster completion: Professionals work quickly due to their extensive experience.
  • Better results: Expertise leads to more precise cuts that promote healthier growth.
  • No cleanup required: Professionals take care of disposing trimmings after completing the job.

“Transform your Toronto landscape with expert hedge trimming services from Vista Tree Management. Efficient, precise and specialized for optimal results.” #TorontoTreeCare #HedgeTrimmingClick to Tweet

Hedge Maintenance and Repair: Conclusion

Toronto Hedge Pruning

Pruning hedges is crucial for maintaining a beautiful and healthy landscape in Toronto.

There are different types of hedges in Toronto, and each requires specific pruning techniques such as selective pruning and shearing.

The best time for hedge maintenance in Toronto depends on your maintenance level or shaping goals, and it’s essential to follow the right timing to avoid damaging your hedges.

If your hedges are damaged, you can repair them quickly to prevent further damage by following some simple tips. However, hiring professional hedge repair service in Toronto is the best option as they offer expert knowledge about local climate conditions and use industry-standard tools to provide efficient service without sacrificing quality.

For more information on hedge trimming in Toronto, check out these credible sources:

Sources:

author avatar
Michael Co-Founder
Michael is a Certified Arborist and founder of the company. He holds a Certificate in Urban Arboriculture (Honours) from Humber College, Certificate in Project Leadership from Cornell, has post-graduate studies in Urban Forestry and Arboriculture from Oregon State College of Foresty and holds a BAH in Ancient History with a minor in Business. In addition to being an ISA Certified Arborist, he is a TCIA Certified Tree Safety Professional, Tree Appraisal Qualified by Arboriculture Canada and holds a Landscape Exterminator license. Michael sat on the Board of Director for the Ontario Commercial Arborist Association in 2022 and 2023. He worked at some of the top arboriculture companies in Southern Ontario before starting Vista Tree Management. Before that, he was an award-winning Executive Director in the nonprofit sector and published marketing consultant. On the rare days off, Michael can be found at home with his family - a loving wife, two daughters and two cats in Central Toronto.
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These guys are the best! Very professional, easy to work with and very nice people.
James was amazing in communication and and arranging everything. He is a wonderful person and professional. I had 4 different companies for the quotes and Vista Tree were the best by every criteria I had in mind. After the work was done they cleaned the whole territory even the mess that was here before them. I would definitely recommend them and will call them again when I need any tree work done. Thanks!

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Professional Associations

We are proud members of many organizations and networks dedicated to skilled labour, small business, the arboriculture industry and professional tree care and landscaping in Ontario.