A tree’s tendency to grow, combined with the limited space available in the urban environment, means that pruning accounts for a significant proportion of our work. Whether we’re thinning out an apple tree or weight-reducing a mighty oak, we put the same care into every target-pruning cut; ensuring the long-term wellbeing of your trees and a tidy finished product.
A crown reduction involves the removal of outer branches in order to reduce the overall size of a tree whilst maintaining its natural aesthetic. A tree may be reduced in height and spread, typically up to 30% in terms of crown volume; this is to ensure its continued health and minimise the proliferation of unsightly reactive growth. All branches removed are target-pruned using a combination of branch-collar and drop-crotch reduction cuts.
At Wildwood Treecare, crown reductions are our speciality, and are approached from the point of view of a sculptor. First we envision the smaller tree within the whole, before removing the outer material in order to bring it to life. Great care is taken to preserve the natural branch structure that makes each tree unique, resulting in trees that maintain their beauty despite a reduction in size.
Crown thinning is to remove a proportion of a tree’s internal and external branches, in order to allow more light and air through the canopy. One of the main purposes of thinning is to remove crossing or rubbing branches; these cause lesions in the tree’s bark, providing an entry-point for pathogens and thus increasing the risk of branch failure and other negative health effects. Whilst a tree-management intervention in its own right, crown thinning is more commonly included within a suite of other tree works such as crown reductions and deadwood removal.
Canopy Lifting involves the removal of all low hanging branches up to a specified height. This can have a profound effect, creating a feeling of spaciousness and allowing significantly more light into the space below. A canopy-lift can also help a tree look its best by revealing its naturally architectural structure.
A weight reduction is applied to a specific limb that has been assessed as ‘at risk of failure’. Whether there is a fault or wound near the base of the limb or purely due to its size, the idea is to remove weight and sail effect to reduce the likelihood of failure. Whilst the primary focus of a weight reduction is safety, it is also very effective in preventing large trees from tearing themselves apart and can therefore help extend the lifespan of veteran trees.
Deadwood is removed from the canopy for aesthetic and risk mitigation purposes. Depending on where a tree is situated, this may or may not be necessary and it should be noted that as deadwood is prime habitat for insects, leaving it in place where safe to do so, will have a positive effect on biodiversity. For this reason, it may be recommended that large deadwood be reduced rather than removed entirely.
In the years following the planting of a tree, some formative pruning will be required. This is to establish the main scaffolding structure, on which the mature tree will be based. Whilst the importance of such pruning may not be immediately apparent, the long term benefits are significant; with the need for large pruning wounds being avoided by removing unwanted branches early on.
Fruit Tree Maintenance
Fruit trees have specific pruning requirements that set them apart from other trees. By target pruning to individual fruiting buds, we are able to optimise the amount of fruit on any given branch. This results in a higher quality yield whilst reducing the chance of branches breaking under the weight of their fruit.
For best results, fruit trees should be pruned every year, although more important is the time of year at which they are pruned. Apple and pear trees are generally pruned in the latter months of winter – January to February is the ideal but there is some flexibility here. All cherry and plum trees, on the other hand, should be pruned in early summer, after they have flowered but before fruit has fully formed – late May through to early July is best. This is because all trees of the Prunus Genus are susceptible to a fungal pathogen known as silver leaf, which is less prevalent during the summer months.
Espalier and fan trained trees are a wonderful way to grow fruit within a limited space, however they require very regular and specific pruning interventions. We are happy to assist with the establishment and maintenance of such trees, although it must be noted that a commitment to regular pruning is a necessity.
Pollarding is a pruning system that involves the removal of a tree’s leaf-bearing branches back to a simplified core structure. Following this type of pruning, a tree will produce a flush of new shoots from the newly created pollard-heads. This regrowth should then be removed – a practice known as re-pollarding, which should be carried out every one to three years.
Whilst pollarding is occasionally carried out for aesthetic purposes, it is more commonly employed to curtail a tree’s growth above and below ground. Regular re-pollarding can alleviate the risk of subsidence by greatly reducing root development, which is why this technique is widely used on street trees. Pollarding may also be appropriate for trees planted close to buildings where more light is required and subsidence its a concern.
A crown restoration is a way to re-develop a tree following storm damage or excessively heavy pruning. A secondary branch structure is created by carefully selecting new shoots and encouraging them to fill gaps in the canopy. Existing branches may be lightly thinned and reduced as appropriate, exposing the new developing branches to more light and thereby increasing their vigour. It should be noted that full crown restorations take a number of years to complete and require regular pruning throughout the process. This is to ensure that developing branch-work is never starved of light and that a symmetrical crown is maintained.
Trees provide habitat for a wide variety of animals, however common tree-care practices often diminish this by removing deadwood and using target pruning cuts that heal over neatly. Whilst this approach has its place, there exist other pruning techniques that focus more on habitat creation by simulating natural branch failures and capitalising on the tree’s response. Using a combination of coronet and tear-cuts, we are able to create cavities and cracks, which provide ideal habitat for many insects and even bats. These pruning techniques also promote the formation of natural hollows over the coming decades, creating vital refuge for larger animals such as birds and mammals. This type of work is particularly appropriate in a woodland or veteran tree setting, where a tree’s role as habitat within a wider environment is of the utmost importance.