No more tree topping

Enough is enough.
I’ve had it with tree hackers!
In my travels around town, I’m seeing more and more examples of
trees that have been butchered, almost beyond recognition.
Enough is enough.

I’ve had it with tree hackers!

In my travels around town, I’m seeing more and more examples of trees that have been butchered, almost beyond recognition.

“Topping” is the pruning term that the people who do this sort of thing like to call it. I’m sure you’ve seen examples, too. Trees that have been virtually stripped at the top have only branch stubs left above the trunk that reach for the sky.

It’s almost as if the tree is reacting to some demented masked arborist who has demanded that the tree, “Stick ’em up.” The trees have truly been robbed of their dignity along with their life and limbs.

It’s amazing to me that homeowners would actually want to do this to a tree, yet I’ve seen several examples right in my own neighborhood.

If the tree is getting out of hand in terms of size, cutting it down and replacing it with a smaller specimen would be much better than butchering the poor thing by topping. Even worse, much of this topping is being done by professional tree service businesses.

Again, it’s amazing to me that anyone (much less tree “professionals”) are still practicing this kind of “pruning.” It’s well known within the horticultural community that topping is bad for a tree’s health.

Topping hinders a tree’s ability to produce food through photosynthesis. It reduces the leaf surface so the crown-to-root ratio is upset and the tree can starve to death.

Not only do topped trees look ridiculous, but – according to the National Arbor Day Foundation – new limbs can be weak and subject to breaking. Large stubs often have difficulty healing and are more vulnerable to insects and diseases. A topped tree may never regain its original grace and character.

If all this isn’t enough, how about hurting your pocketbook? A topped tree can reduce property values because they look so bad before new growth emerges. And if that new growth never emerges, you’ll have to pay more to get it cut down, and then pay again to replace it.

Of course, your replacement tree will more likely be a 5-gallon-size, which means it will be years before reaching the height you probably want.

Instead of taking the lazy approach of topping a tree, follow good pruning practices. There’s no secret to good pruning. Thin the center of the tree to open it up to sunlight and air. Selectively remove dead, diseased, weakened and criss-crossing branches. Crossing branches can suffer injury by rubbing together and are usually unattractive, especially in deciduous trees out of leaf.

If you have no preference for a branch’s direction, remember that generally it is better for a new branch to grow toward the outside of a plant rather than toward its interior.

If you want to keep the size down, do so accordingly. Do not hack off half the branches at once. For safety’s sake, hire a professional instead of climbing into tall trees yourself. But keep in mind that just because a business card or truck sign says “tree service” on it, doesn’t make it so.

If you meet a so-called professional who proposes tree topping, heed that well-known advice and “just say no.”

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