Tag Archives: tree health; tree injury; pruning

Topping is evil

Previously topped Manitoba Maple, that had had failed leaders in the past – photo credit: Jillian Creasor

We recently had a storm event that resulted in a lot of damaged trees throughout Brandon and the Westman area. With few exceptions, the reason that these trees failed was because they had been previously topped. I am not talking pineapple on pizza (which is delicious) or sprinkles on ice cream (literally the worst) Read on to find out what topping is, why people have done it in the past, and what you can do differently to take care of your trees.

What is topping?

Topping in the tree world is an outdated pruning practice that does not deliver. Generally, “topping” is just that – taking the top or upper crown off a tree.

After topping, many epicormic shoots arise and develop into weakly attached branches. These
branches, and the multiple leaders, continue to develop girth and weight and have an
increasing potential to fall and cause damage to people and property.

Linda Chalker-Scott, The Myth of Tree Topping, PlantAmnesty, https://www.plantamnesty.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Myth-of-Tree-Topping.pdf

Why do people top trees?

Trees may have grown and are interfering with power lines or properties. People may think that it is safer to have a shorter tree or that getting a serious pruning will give the tree a chance to “fill out” Topping promises a safer tree, but does not deliver.

How does topping a tree affect it?

Initially, the loss of leaves results in less food for the tree. The tree is more susceptible to disease, decay and insects through all the cut off stubs and limbs.

Trees understandably freak out after losing their top or upper canopy (how upset would you be if you lost your head?!) Trees react with rapid growth, which results in poorly connected branches in an attempt to replace as many leaves as quickly as possible.

Eventually the new branches grow to the original height, but are tied in poorly, which restarts the whole cycle again.

(You can use a chainsaw for proper pruning!)

What is the alternative to topping a tree?

Excellent question! A healthy, well pruned, watered tree is the safest. Depending on the age, placement, and species of tree, there are several effective tree pruning techniques that can be employed. Selective crown reduction, or crown thinning are two ways we can respond to some of the concerns that motivate tree topping. Bottom line, if you are considered topping a tree, you may want to consider tree removal and stump grinding and replace with a tree that will more comfortably fit into the space.

You can consult with an arborist, who can assess risk, and make suggestions!

You can request a visit online here Request a quote ! Or call Reta at 204-730-0368

Get that tree a haircut!

Generally speaking, cedars are not a great bet in Manitoba. The extremes and variability that characterizes the weather in these parts is not a good match for what cedars need. Having said that, older nursery stock that was climatized properly, and had better winters to get established can be wonderful specimens.

These lovely towering (columnar) cedars deserved a bit of love after getting nibbled on by deer over the winter. It’s a great example of updating an older tree, instead of removing it.

If deer got into your cedars, or any other trees need a day at the spa,give Reta a call at 204-730-0368 or fill out our handy form GET A QUOTE

Why does my tree look like that?!

After the stormy times of 2014, I found that a lot of folks in the surrounding area became very “tree aware”. I got a lot of phone calls asking “is my tree safe?” I would generally respond that all trees in our care do pose some degree of risk, and that I would assess the risk, with a few caveats. With the tough weather we have had over the past two years – hot, dry summers, and cold, dry winters, I am now getting a lot of calls wondering why their tree looks the way it does.

When assessing a tree with an eye to possible pruning, or removal, I work through the  pyramid, or three legged stool: Safety – Health – Appearance. Some of the questions I ask around safety are: how close is the tree to buildings, public walkways, powerlines? What kind of tree is it, how has it been pruned in the past, what is the overall structure? Then I assess if the tree is healthy, leafed out, fighting off bugs, mushrooms, pathogens. Appearance can definitely be subjective, and sentimental value is always a consideration.

When there is a question of infection, I prepare samples and send them away to a lab to test. We are generally not big proponents of chemically treating trees, that may just need water and pruning. It is important to know what the concern is, and we can discuss lab results when they come back.

Caring for your tree is the best defense. Trees are like us. They have a circulatory system, scars from injuries, neighbours.  Caring for your tree means regular haircuts (pruning for species and age as recommended by a certified arborist), watering your trees when we go weeks, or months without rain in the summer, and monitoring for the signs of decline (mushrooms, dead branches in the crown, root plate shifting, splits at unions, and premature leaf or needle loss are among the most obvious)

If you have questions about your trees, please call Reta at 204-730-0368

If you want to know what questions to ask – 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Arborist or Tree Service