Friday, December 3, 2021

Tree Pruning: Before & After

Our annual tree pruning exercise was scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving this year, starting at 8am.  The company's president and arborist always arrives about a half hour earlier to review what's to be done with his crew's lead and to get any final input from me.  As a result I was up very early and was able to watch the sunrise.


I always freak out a bit before my trees are trimmed.  In addition to the almost inevitable collateral damage to surrounding plants, I worry about cutting back the trees too much, leaving them looking awkward for months or longer.  Given our increasingly hot summers, I'm also wary of diminishing the shade the trees provide so I emphasized that I wanted all but three trees on this year's list "lightly" trimmed.

The three trees that received the most extreme haircuts were all peppermint willows (Agonis flexuosa).  We have six of these trees and I usually have one or two of them trimmed each year but I'd ignored the two facing the street and the largest one, located in the southeast corner of our back garden, for a few years.  My husband and I'd attempted some minor pruning of one of the street-facing trees several months ago, resulting in him tumbling from the ladder on uneven ground as I tried to break his fall.  Neither of us broke any bones but we did get a scare and some nasty bruises so we'll be leaving that job to professionals in the future.

This is the tallest willow on the southeast end of the garden, before (left) and after (right).  The tree is surrounded on all sides by Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' and a mass of succulents stand nearby but, I haven't found post-trim damage to any of these plants.

The two street-facing willows screened much of the front garden from view and shielded us from the sun but some of the plants behind that screen will benefit from the increased sunlight

This is a view of the same street-facing willows from a different angle

In addition to the three peppermint willows, four strawberry trees (Arbutus 'Marina') were trimmed.  I have these trees trimmed every year to ensure air flow within their canopies, preventing the sooty mold that can otherwise develop.  Their before and after photos look a lot alike but that's because most of the trimming is done to the interior areas.

This is the largest of the two strawberry trees in the back garden

This is the smaller strawberry tree in the back garden.  It was heavily laden with flowers prior to trimming, most of which were lost in the process of trimming; however, the recently planted succulent bed in front of the tree (partially visible in the right foreground in the after photo) was mostly unscathed.

This is a photo of the interior of the canopy of the larger of these two trees

Before and after shots of the large strawberry tree on the south side of the front garden

Before and after shots of the strawberry tree on the north side of the front garden

View of the interior canopy of the large strawberry tree in the front.  This tree sits at the top of a moderate slope, which is planted with a copious number of succulents.  These were also mostly undamaged.

Three other trees and one cherry laurel hedge (Prunus caroliniana, not photographed) also got trimmed.

The Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana) gets very twiggy and growing branches tend to scrape the roof, which is both unsafe in the event of fire and very noisy during our frequent bouts with Santa Ana winds.  It got a simple cleanup.

In prior years, I felt the Magnolia grandiflora got scalped but this year I felt the trimming was just right

The ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana) showed signs of fire blight, a disease that causes branches to die back, a couple of years ago but the tree crew managed to cut out the problem back then and this year all it needed was shaping

The best news is that there was less collateral damage than usual this year and the crew was in and out in just over five hours.  Job done until next year, when I may add some of our citrus trees to the mix - pruning them myself has gotten harder as those trees have gotten taller.


All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

10 comments:

  1. A big job well done. I'm glad you left it to the professional instead taking unnecessary risks. Those are fantastic shots from inside Arbutus 'Marina'.

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    1. Arbutus 'Marina' is among my favorite trees for so many reasons. Everything from its bark to its structure to its flowers and fruits is lovely.

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  2. You have an EXCELLENT arborist. The fact that the differences are subtle is proof of their expertise.

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    1. The arborist has employed the same lead guy on almost all the jobs they've done for us since 2013. He's an artist!

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  3. Bruises sound nasty. Take care. And the trees looks as if they have 'just stepped out of a salon' Lightened and feathered.

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    1. Everything was done just right, Diana! I wish I felt as good after leaving my hairdresser's salon ;)

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  4. Very impressive work! Best of all the fact there was little damage to the surrounding plants.

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    1. I was very pleased that the collateral damage was so limited this year. Although I go into the process expecting it, it's still unnerving when you face the reality of it.

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  5. Hurray for excellent trimming and little ground damage! Falls are scary and each year more likely for me, even though I tend to stay on the ground. Glad you both survived with no broken bones!

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    1. The ground is slightly sloped, which had me apprehensive about setting up a ladder when we weren't able to cut the problem branches using a pole saw. My husband thought it would be okay - until it wasn't :(

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