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Mailbag: How to prune evergreens

I have a few English Ilex which are at least 15 years old and are much too large. I would like to cut them way back. When is the proper time to cut them? Also, when is a good time to cut a baby blue spruce? -- Owen Costello
 
Spruce trees seldom require pruning. But if you believe yours does, identify the branches you want to cut back, and trim each to where side buds are visible. This should be done in early spring, so this week would be ideal.
 
Ilex, or hollies, also seldom need pruning, unless they has have grown leggy or out of scale, as yours have, or have dead, diseased or nonproductive branches. You can rejuvenate it by cutting it back hard, also in early spring. It will take at least a year and possibly two to fill in, during which time you should fertilize and water regularly to help it along.

Good luck! 

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