How Not to Prune a Tree

Badly pruned tree

I’ll be the first to admit that pruning a tree involves as much art as it does science. But still, there’s a certain amount of knowledge and technique required to do it right … and the butcher who “pruned” this tree clearly didn’t have either!

Here in Connecticut (and in many other states), an individual needs an Arborist License to prune trees – and rightfully so. It’s not simply a matter of lopping off a few branches and calling it a day. Without a thorough understanding of tree physiology (to understand how the tree will respond to each type of intervention), the appropriate types of pruning cuts (and the tools to make those cuts), methods of supporting the tree (e.g., bracing, cabling), safety, soil biology, and more, it’s easy to end up with an extra-large, expensive coat rack on your lawn.

The maple tree in this photo had been losing leaves so the “tree care” worker recommended cutting it back hard to stimulate new growth. And yes, he really expected it to grow back, kind of like a flowering annual. That was last summer. This spring, the tree is dead.

Next time, hire a licensed/certified Arborist to prune your tree.

If in doubt, check an arborist’s credentials with the International Society of Arboriculture or your state licencing body.

What experiences have you had with tree pruning? How did it turn out?