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The Basics of Tree Pruning

MERISTEM TIPS :: VASCULAR SYSTEM :: TRANSPIRATION :: THE 1/3 RULE
THE BRANCH COLLAR :: TARGET PRUNING :: CONCLUSION :: GLOSSARY


TARGET PRUNING
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The target pruning method is an an overall pattern of care that focuses on the needs of the tree, and directs the pruning by removing material that is no longer contributing to the tree’s health or beauty.
Dead wood such as shade out die back, broken wood, damaged wood, rubbing and crossing branches, narrow crotching structures, and root crown shoots are typical target cuts.
The largest cuts are made first. As the dead wood is removed, and the tree’s most obvious problems are corrected, the tree is reduced to a more sustainable form, and it is easier to assess its needs. This is a continuing process throughout the pruning. As material is removed, the tree is observed, and more corrections are identified.


SHADE OUT DIE-BACK

When light is no longer able to reach inside the tree because of shade from the canopy, the tree spontaneously begins to withdraw energy from interior shoots. This is not a sign of disease, rather it indicates the tree is redirecting its energy out to the tips. This dead wood can be removed to reduce the interior burden in the tree, open the interior, and allow the tree to focus its energy on more productive structures.

 


DAMAGED LIVE WOOD

After we remove the dead wood from the tree, the next step is to eliminate living wood that is diseased or damaged, and that ultimately will not contribute to the tree’s health or beauty.

 

 


ROOT CROWN SHOOTS

Root crown shoots emerge around the base of the tree, and are not a desirable part of the tree’s structure. They draw the tree’s energy into unproductive forms, and if left unpruned, may grow to compete with the lead of the tree, causing it to grow in a confused structure. They should be removed in order to refocus the tree’s energy and keep the tree in a natural form. The shoots should be cut above soil level, in draining cuts to pre-vent decomposition and decay.

 


NARROW CROTCHING STRUCTURES

This limb is exhibiting what is known as a narrow crotching structure. The branch has a very tight angle of emergence from the main leading trunk. This tight angle creates a focus of stress, a weak structural form in the tree’s scaffold, and the branch is vulnerable to wind damage.


 

This is an example of a strong angle of emergence. There is a large radius which distributes the force of stress and makes for a healthy attachment.


RUBBING/CROSSING BRANCHES

This is an example of a rubbing and crossing branch. Bark damage is beginning to develop, and this could represent a long term problem for the tree.

 



PARALLEL LEADS

Many times a tree will send out several competing leaders into the same area. It is sometimes necessary to choose which is the best placed, which is the strongest, which has the nicest morphology and keep that one, and remove the one that’s going to interfere.

 


This is an example case of a narrow crotching trunk, a double lead, and a root crown shoot, all of which are undesirable. The way to send this tree into the future, to give it the best form and character is to train to our single leading trunk.

 

 

We have taken a tree that was growing in a double lead, which was diffusing the tree’s energy, and detracting from its natural beauty.
By removing the undesirable shoot, we’ve avoided a serious defect in the future, and directed the tree’s energy into a more graceful structure.

Once the important, targeted cuts, are made, the tree’s most serious issues are addressed and it can be re-examined with an eye to finer adjustments. We can then let the tree run on its own genetic map, and it may not require pruning for another 5 years or more.

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