Tag Archives: Pruning

About Tipping

No, not that kind of tipping.

I’m talking about snipping off the ends of tree branches to shorten them.

In the drawing, the blue line indicates roughly where someone snipped off the ends of branches a, b, c, and d. You can see how the tree responded: a spray of profuse new growth (“shoots” or “water sprouts”) from near the ends of the tipped branches.

Why?

At the tip of a tree branch there is a so-called terminal or apical bud. This specialized bud regulates growth of the entire branch. (After all, the tree needs to grow up and out to reach that all-important sunlight!)

A hormone is involved, called auxin. Think of auxin as being like a sleep potion. All those many other buds lying under the bark along each branch? Auxin keeps those buds dormant.

But if I snip off the terminal bud, some of those dormant buds along the branch “wake up.” They send out shoots which will become twigs which will become new branches.

Tipping a branch to clear a sidewalk or street is usually counterproductive. Within a year or two, the problem will be twice or three times as bad. Look how many sprouts were growing on this tipped Bradford pear. (Located on Austin Avenue at its intersection with Euclid. Thanks to Meghan for identifying this hazard to pedestrians.)

Instead, always cut a branch just beyond a node. A node is simply where a leaf, twig, or secondary branch attaches to a larger part of the tree.

Put differently, your goal is always to leave a bud which can become the new terminal or apical bud of that branch, controlling that essential hormone auxin, so that the tree can grow up and out.

Repair work:

TELL US WHERE TO WORK

From now until at least May 2022, Inman Park volunteers will gather on the third Saturday of each month to

  • prune branches that are growing into the sidewalk or street,
  • remove vines strangling trees in our parks and greenspaces,
  • cut out or pull up invasive plants that crowd out our native species.

You can help by telling us where you have noticed that a sidewalk is obstructed or a park space is being overtaken by vines.

Leave a comment on this post with your suggestions, and thanks for the help!

Bark Inclusion

If you happen to be a tree, one of the bigger challenges you have is this: I need energy to grow and reproduce! So I’m gonna reach for sunlight, water, and nutrients. But how far and fast can I reach before something like this happens?

The photograph above shows an American elm (Ulmus americana ‘Princeton’) planted years ago by Tree Watch and Trees Atlanta in Freedom Park.

American elm is really great at reaching. It can grow fast. When it’s at home — ‘home’ being rich, alluvial soil in a forested floodplain along a river or stream — a tall American elm will have channeled so much of its energy into growing upward, in order to reach that lovely sunlight at the top of the forest, that it may have no branches at all until the 50- or 60-foot mark.

Photo credit: Christian O. Marks

Of course, an American elm growing in an open, grassy section of Freedom Park has no difficulty at all accessing sunlight. It’s like a kid left alone in a candy shop. (Think of that poor elm tree in Freedom Park as a kid with a terrible tummy ache.)

Continue reading Bark Inclusion

Who actually owns our street trees?

The answer should be clear.

It’s not, at least not to me.

  • “The City of Atlanta owns them, Jim. That’s obvious. After all, they’re in the public right-of-way. You’re forbidden by law from removing or injuring those trees, but the City itself can do whatever it wants with them. Clearly, the trees belong to the City.”
  • “You own them, Jim. After all, you’re the one who’s legally responsible for maintaining that strip along the street (e.g., keeping it level with the sidewalk, keeping it free of holes and weeds, pruning the trees themselves). If the City has to step in and do the maintenance for you, it can charge you with the expense. If the City abandons its right-of-way along the road, you’re the one with the reversionary right. And so on. Clearly, the trees belong to you.”

Totally confusing.

Continue reading Who actually owns our street trees?

Absolute Torture

I wish I could tell you that walking around our leafy, shady, drop-dead-gorgeous neighborhood is a continual source of unmitigated joy for us tree guys and tree gals.

It ain’t. Not always, anyway. Sometimes it feels like torture.

Here’s the problem. (Cue the violins.) Everywhere a tree guy looks, he sees work that needs doing. And work that should have been done but wasn’t. And work that he did but now needs doing again.

Sigh.

Here’s an example.

That’s a live oak (Quercus virginiana ‘Cathedral’) which Tree Watch planted several years ago, and which one of our neighbors (it seems) has now had “pruned” by his yard crew (I’m guessing), which should definitely be calling itself Jack the Ripper Lawn Care Services.

It’s like a person going for a pedicure and coming home with two bleeding stumps instead of legs.

It’s like that oak tree dissed his mama. Twice.

You know what happens when a person abuses a tree like that? One day, it falls on somebody’s head.

Here’s another example.

You’re wondering where the tree is. Me, too. It was there two days ago, and I well remember the morning that Melissa and her family planted it.

A tree guy thinks, “I should have pruned that live oak again, before the homeowner got frustrated with it.” He thinks, however illogically, “I should have known that there were new owners of that house, and thought to talk to them about the white oak tree we planted in that yard.”

Sigh.

Trees can be like our children. The dad or mom looks at their son and thinks, “I sure love him, but gosh does he need a haircut and a new pair of blue jeans.”

Tree Pruning: Beginner’s Class

We’re offering Inman Park residents and residents of nearby neighborhoods (e.g., Edgewood, Candler Park, O4W, Lake Claire, Poncey-Highlands, Va-Hi,  Druid Hills, etc.) a free pruning workshop on Sunday, June 25, from 2:00-5:00 pm. It’s for beginners or anyone who needs a refresher. Details and sign up here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tree-pruning-beginners-class-tickets-35186135679

The workshop will be led by Jim Abbot, a longtime volunteer with Trees Atlanta and chair of Inman Park Tree Watch.

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Now, for you literary types, here’s poet Allison Funk reading her short poem “On Pruning.” Going back thousands of years, we humans have regarded pruning as an obvious source of wisdom about our own lives. Enjoy.