Jason and Anna Anderson met at Virginia Tech when Anna pledged Alpha Gamma Rho, the agricultural fraternity Jason belonged to. They connected over a shared passion for agriculture, plants, the outdoors and pickup trucks.
“I laugh and say he liked my pickup truck before he liked me,” Anna said. “And we still love our pickup trucks.”
One reason they love their trucks is that they help them run their business, Waters Edge Specialty Pruning and Plant Health Care.
Anna studied landscape and turf management at Tech. Jason studied forest products and forestry and says he is the only ISA Board Certified Master Arborist in the Lake Anna and Northern Neck regions.
Prior to opening Waters Edge in the fall of 2020, Jason co-owned an arboricultural business in Richmond, but decided to sell his shares to his business partner when he turned 50.
“I was on the road all the time to Richmond and [Anna and I] weren’t seeing much of each other,” Jason said. “We sold my interest in that company in Richmond, and it allowed us to start this.”
There are two main aspects of the Waters Edge business model: specialty pruning and plant health care.
The Andersons specialize in hand-pruning ornamental shrubs and trees no taller than 15 feet, such as boxwoods, azaleas, and rhododendrons, avoiding power tools. Hand-pruning means that the shrub or tree will look natural when finished.
“We’re giving the plant a natural look, making selective cuts, and removing dead or crossing branches that are no longer healthy,” Anna said.
Not all pruning techniques are created equal, and pruning a tree or shrub at the wrong time or in the wrong way can actually hurt the plant or cause overgrowth in the future.
“A lot of people just come in with a pair of shears and just shear it off at any time, and they don’t realize that they’re potentially hurting the plant,” Jason said.
Most trees and shrubs should be pruned in the winter months, their dormant season, but some plants that bloom in the spring, such as azaleas and rhododendrons, should be pruned once they’ve dropped their blooms in late spring. Pruning these types of plants in the winter could mean actually pruning off the flower buds that will produce flowers in the spring.
A pruning faux pas Jason and Anna often see involves cutting off the tops of crepe myrtles.
“The trees try to put on the growth you’ve taken off, and they just come back really bushy and sometimes very ugly,” Jason said. “You’re putting the plant in a situation where it has to respond with growth.”
To prune crepe myrtles, the Andersons never cut off the tops. Instead, they’ll thin them from the interior to reduce crossing branches.
The second aspect of the business is plant health care, because just like people, trees and shrubs are living things and might get sick.
“Different species of shrubs and different species of trees have different insects and diseases that affect them,” Jason said. “All trees are going to have something that will affect them somewhere in their lifetime.”
Some of the most common issues with trees and shrubs Jason and Anna see are from people over-mulching trees. This, essentially, prevents the tree from absorbing and transporting nutrients and holds in moisture, creating an ideal environment for insects and pests.
“The canopy can’t talk to the root system because there’s a noose around it, and that’s the effect it will have if there’s too much mulch or a tree is planted too deep,” Jason said.
They also run into a lot of root issues, caused by overwatering, typically with plants that aren’t native to Virginia, which is why the Andersons advocate for people to choose native plants.
“People put in a tree in a wet area, and [because] that tree doesn’t like wet feet, you’ll run into issues of root rot,” Jason said. “Nine times out of 10, it’s not that people are not putting enough water down, it’s that they’re putting too much water down.”
Insects and pests can also plague trees and require treatment. Serving people who live near Lake Anna and the Chesapeake Bay, Anna and Jason are careful about which product they use.
“We’re very sensitive to what products we use, because a lot of our clients live on the lake or around bodies of water, some have bees, and some like to feed birds,” Anna said.
They prioritize causing no harm to the environment, while also controlling the pests or insects that are damaging the tree or shrub. They do this by applying localized treatment and fertilization to reduce chances for runoff and by targeting the life cycle of the pests to maximize treatment efficacy.
Waters Edge is a new business in the area, and the Andersons are hopeful to see it grow, seeing it as an opportunity to educate the local community about the trees and shrubs in their backyards.
“All plants you look at, they’re like us; they’re living,” Anna said. “And you have to encourage them to grow and become strong, and that’s one thing we love to be able to show clients.”