Just leave the damn tree alone.

Balancing myself up in the canopy of a sturdy white oak earlier this week, it occurred to me how closely arbiter and arborist are in meaning as well as spelling. In addition to the inevitable landscaping disagreements between spouses that I'm often expected to resolve, my primary job as an arborist is to somehow reconcile what the homeowner wants with what the tree wants. The homeowner wants PRUNING, and the tree, well, it just wants to be let alone.

People get it in their heads that the tree is just standing there in immobilized agony wishing it could communicate it's desire for copious pruning. Not only does the tree not want to be bothered with your surgical urgings, it'll probably flip you some serious attitude. I call it "panic epicormic sprouting" and I have personal experience. I've carefully cut off branches and have been rewarded with the emergence of five or six new branches in the same spot to deal with. That's tree attitude.

Some tree "experts" have turned this into a pretty profitable business plan. They come over to your property and prune the living hell out of the interior of your tree. Nice and tidy (arborists call this kind of damaging pruning "lion tailing"- get the visual picture?). Lucky for the "experts", the tree freaks and pushes out twice as much growth to compensate the following season.

Call it job security. Beware of the tree company that charges by the branch.

Mature trees need occasional maintenance pruning. The 5 d's are often presented as reasons to prune anytime:

1. Damaged

2. Diseased

3. Deformed

4. Dangerous

5. Dying

Prune your trees when they are young to create good structure and shape (a future blog post), but leave your mature trees unmolested by your good intentions.