Natural Form Pruning is an approach that ideally when the work is completed the tree shouldn’t look like it was worked on, it should look like it just grew that way. We remove branches that are dead, dying, diseased, insect infested, broken, poorly attached, interfering with structures, or are too low over sidewalks and streets to meet city codes.
Pruning is the most common tree maintenance procedure. Proper pruning is essential in developing a tree with a strong structure and desirable form. Trees that are correctly pruned when they are young will require little corrective pruning when they mature.
In a landscaping setting, we sometimes need to modify the trees so people and the trees can co-exist. Safety is of paramount importance, and how this is achieved to complement other landscape plantings, structures, and lawns can be a delicate balance to achieve and maintain good tree health and structure while enhancing the aesthetic and economic values of our landscapes.
Understanding tree biology is critical in determining the approach to pruning. The leaves are the “food factories” for the trees. That is what separates the plant kingdom from the animal kingdom. Plants produce their own food through a process called photosynthesis. This occurs in the leaves. The leaves also store energy. The leaves are essential for the tree to produce the sugars used as energy for growth and development. Heavy pruning can severely stress a tree, making it vulnerable to failure and unable to fight against insects and disease. If too much of the foliage mass is removed by heavy pruning, the tree will have a defensive reaction to replace those leaves and it does this by producing rapidly growing suckers and sprouts. These suckers and sprouts are not true branches (originating from the parent wood) but are superficially and weakly attached. I think of their attachment kind of like a rubber tipped arrow or dart. They are very prone to failure.
Each cut has the potential to change the growth pattern of the tree. Many factors need to be considered before any cut is made. How the cut is made is also critical. Trees do not heal like people. They compartmentalize the injury. They actually build walls around the injury, and this stays with the tree forever. Young trees are approached differently than mature trees. With young trees the emphasis is on developing structure and form. If done correctly, the tree will require little corrective pruning when it’s mature. If done incorrectly, the tree will require constant maintenance and will be compromised throughout its lifetime. When pruning mature trees, the main focus should be for safety, removing dead branches, crowded limbs, and eliminating hazards. With mature trees the structure is already in place.