I was in Walmart recently, looking at the plants. Ok, I suppose I’ve already turned off parts of my audience! But seriously, looking at all those trees in 2-gallon pots, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit sad. “Sad?” You might think, “Why sad? You love trees, and the idea of people planting trees is such a hopeful, positive thing.” Well yes it is. But I’m an arborist, and I get to witness so much disappointment when my clients show me trees that were planted a few years before and just aren’t going to live to be old. I don’t like to be negative, but the reality is that most of these trees will fail to fully live up to the hope and expectation of the persons who adopt them. So I bought two of them, took them home, and made this video while they were being planted. Please watch it, and pass it on in order to make more happy endings. Thanks, W.
The trees in your landscape today – and their values based on condition, location, and species – are a result of decisions that were made years ago. What you decide today determines the future. With trees, you need to think long term. Here are 3 jobs we did last week and the plans we decided on.
1. Pruning to make a (damaged) tree safer This customer had 2 silver maples in the backyard – both in poor condition. The one in the rear was in such poor health (almost dead) that removing it was the only sensible option. But the one near the house provided shade over the deck, and the owners would miss it terribly if it were gone. This tree had lots of problems – big broken branches from past storms, weak co-dominant branch structure, and the biggest portion of this misshapen tree hung out over the roof of the house, where if it broke it would cause plenty of damage. And silver maples are very prone to breakage. We decided to prune the tree in such a way that the new growth on the broken branches would be in a desirable direction and we pruned the big leader over the house to reduce its size. And we cleared out the dead wood.
2. Pruning to train for the future The next day (Thursday) we pruned several healthy young trees in Collegeville. The goal was to train them so that as they grow, they will have the strongest possible branch structure, and won’t encroach on the house as much.
The honey locust had two main leaders, and the one towards the house had grown larger than the other. Ideally, it should have been pruned when very young to maintain a single central leader. It’s now too late for that, but we can reduce the larger leader to subordinate it and to help keep it away from the house.The tree was pruned to reduce the larger leader, without destroying its appearance and in compliance with Ansi A300 pruning standards.
Also on this property was a young Sawtooth oak – healthy and vigorous, but beginning to develop several co-dominant stems. These are the upright branches with the tight-angle crotches that will be likely to split in a storm when the tree is bigger.We pruned the co-dominants to subordinate them, so the center leader will remain dominant. In a few years, the co-dominants can be removed or further subordinated and the tree will be much less prone to storm damage as it grows to mature size.
3. Getting the new tree started is sometimes the best plan The last big snowstorm broke a really large branch on the red maple in front of a client’s house in Limerick. The tree is on the south side of the house and the owner really appreciates its shade in the summer. But now it’s really disfigured, and it has other problems that make it unlikely it will still be there in another 10-15 years: It has a girdling root problem due to improper mulching in the past, and it is really too close to the house. Whoever planted it did not take into consideration the potential size at maturity.
Once the client was aware of all of this, he liked my idea of getting a new tree started – a new tree that would eventually get really big, but would be planted where it had room to grow. In a few years, when the red maple finally has to go, the new bur oak tree will be established and the loss will not seem so great.