Cabling and bracing are tree support systems used to maintain a tree with structural defects. One of the most common defects among trees is the formation of codominant stems. (see Step 1) Codominant stems are hazardous particularly when bark is included in the union. It is a weak connection because the stems are not connected where there is bark. As the tree grows it pushes the leaders apart similar to driving a wedge between them. Thus it is a weak connection and a prime candidate for cabling.

Listed below are seven reasons you may decide to prune your tree/shrub.

  1. Safety - reduce the risk of failure
  2. Provide clearance - no more getting clocked in the head by those low limbs
  3. Reduce shade - do you want grass?
  4. Maintain health - removing dead, dying, diseased limbs and cross growth
  5. Influence flower or fruit production - do you want fewer flowers or larger fruit or more fruit?
  6. Improve a view - what is over there?
  7. Improve aesthetics - Before: What is that? After: Wow! Nice tree.

Just as there are many reasons to trim a tree there are different ways to trim. Below is a brief description of the various types of pruning we can do for you.

Pruning for structure: The removal of live limbs to influence direction, spacing, branch attachment and growth rate. This type of pruning is best done on young to medium aged trees. If you train them while they are young you will save yourself money as it is much easier to trim a small tree than it is a large tree (and better for the tree too).

Pruning to clean: The removal of dead, dying, diseased and broken limbs. Also removed are limbs that are growing across other limbs. This type of pruning is the one we do most often. Benefits of this type of pruning are many. No longer is it necessary to park somewhere other than under the tree for fear of a new hood ornament. Pruning dead and diseased limbs prevents the spread of decay, pests and diseases. "Removal of dying and dead branches takes away the food source for pathogens that could spread into the tree" (Shigo, 60). While cleaning the canopy we are removing few live limbs aware that every time a living branch is cut it is a stress to the tree. Trees do not need to be trimmed because they are trees but because we live near them.

Pruning to thin: Selectively removing small live branches near the outer edge of the canopy. Done properly the shape of the tree will not change. It is important to realize that when you remove a living limb from the canopy, the tree wants to replace it. This is evidenced when trees are topped and numerous sprouts emerge. The goal is to thin for the desired effect but not over thin causing more problems down the road.

Pruning to raise: We do this type of pruning for our customers who mow their own lawn.

Pruning to reduce: When a tree has grown beyond the desired height reduction may be an option. Reduction is the selective removal of limbs to decrease the height and/or spread of a tree. The pruning cuts are made at a lateral that can then take over the terminal growth of that limb. This is not topping. Topping is the cutting of limbs at a random spot to decrease height. It causes many problems and is very unhealthy for a tree. We do not top trees and would be happy to provide you with more information on the harmful effects of topping. Sometimes a better option to reduction is removal. It may be the wrong tree in the wrong place and you would be better off starting over with a species that will not over grow its surroundings.

Pruning to restore: We restore trees that have been previously topped, damaged in a storm or are in general disrepair. Pruning stubs, some sprouts and other limbs will improve the structure and appearance of the tree.

Pollarding: A pruning technique for a formal appearance. Pollarding involves making heading cuts at specific locations once in the life of the tree while it is still young. On an annual or semi-annual basis during the dormant season the sprouts are removed back to the original cut. Over time a ball or fist of growth will appear and the tree will have a very interesting look about it. Certain trees can handle pollarding while others cannot. Some that can are: Ailanthus, Black Locust, Catalpa, Chestnut, Linden, Sycamore and Willow. Of course this list is not exhaustive and a brief trip to the library would give you more insight.

References used for this page were:
Gilman, Edward F. and Sharon J. Lilly. Best Management Practices Tree Pruning.
Champaign, IL: International Society of Arboriculture, 2002.
Shigo, Alex. Tree Pruning A Worldwide Photo Guide. Durham, NH: Shigo and Trees,
Associates, 1989.
Reich, Lee. The Pruning Book. Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 1997.


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