Use an Expert Tree Service to Maintain Healthy Trees

Driving around Vancouver, and Clark and Cowlitz counties, we see some bad pruning. It makes us sad for the trees and homeowners, as we know that bad pruning can shorten the life of once beautiful trees, removing the many benefits that trees can bring to a property. More than that, once gracefully, branching trees are reduced to ugly stumps, and it can take a long time, and an expert tree service to rehabilitate bad pruning.


Bad tree pruning techniques to avoid:

  1. “Topping” You may have heard tree topping discussed, but it’s not a real pruning technique, used by tree professionals. A guideline for good pruning, used by expert tree services, is to maintain the natural growth habit of the tree. The natural flow of tree growth is from the trunk (coarse growth) to branches, ending in twigs (fine growth). It’s important not to cut off branches in the middle, topping the tree, and cutting off its ability to manufacture food for itself, by taking off most of the green leaves. The stubs left are susceptible to decay, and insect invasion. Branches that sprout from the stumps have a weak branch attachment, and are at risk for future failure. It’s very hard to bring a tree back from topping, requiring years of corrective pruning.
  2. “Lionstailing” is an over-thinning of the interior of the tree, resulting in what looks like a ‘Lionstail’ on the end of every major branch. This leads to an uneven distribution of leaves and weight at the end of branches, and long-term can lead to branches breaking, as the wind catches them. These trees are good candidates for severe storm damage. It is very important to retain the ‘inner green’ of trees, as they help to feed the tree. Ideally thinning cuts should be made throughout the tree, not just in the center, and weight should be taken off the ends of branches, if needed. It is recommended that not more than 15-20% of the tree canopy is removed at one time.
  1. “Pollarding” – The technique of pollarding originated in Europe, dating back to ancient Rome, as a way of producing firewood from living trees. It’s also a way of keeping a tree small enough to fit the space it’s planted in. It’s essentially a form of topping, and is still used in some formal gardens and along city streets. The upper branches of a tree (usually a Plane tree – Platanus species) are removed, leaving big, knotted stumps. These increase in size as the tree is pruned back annually. A multitude of thin, whip like branches grow back on these knots in the Spring. These trees are not particularly healthy, since the stumps can encourage weak growth and decay, and the trees are essentially stunted by severely cutting them back. This technique, if used at all, should only be used on younger trees. Pollarding could kill an older tree.