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I have a love affair with trees.


It’s true.  I love their beautiful branch architecture, foliage and the dappled shade that they provide.  Living in the desert Southwest, shade is a valuable commodity with the relief it offers from the intense sun and cool temperatures it offers.



For all these reasons and more, I can’t fathom why people would prune their trees like this, stripping them of all their beauty and much of their function.


The phrase that comes to mind when seeing something like this is badly pruned trees or how ‘not’ to prune trees.

Unfortunately, this is just one of many trees in this parking lot that have fallen prey to terrible pruning practices.

As a certified arborist, I see many bad examples of pruning, but I can honestly say that the trees in this parking lot are the worst.

Years ago, my husband and I used to live next to the area in Scottsdale and the appalling pruning that was done to the trees was well known by me.  

 On this lovely day, the kids and I were on our way home from the Desert Botanical Garden when we drove past this shopping plaza.  I quickly made a detour to see if anything had changed.  

Sadly, they hadn’t.  So, I took out my camera and started taking photos.

See if you can guess what each badly tree is:


#1


#2


#3


#4

Feel free to leave your answers in the comments section.  After guessing, click here for the answers with examples of what the trees should look like when properly maintained.  

Needless to say, you don’t need to know what type of trees they are to realize that they have been ‘butchered’.

Yesterday evening, I started to see the signs….


Gusty winds, thunder clouds, the smell of rain in the air and raindrops starting to fall.  A monsoon storm was on it’s way.


Clouds gathering over my house and Eucalyptus tree.

When I first moved to the desert southwest from California, I was quite surprised that it rained in the desert frequently in the summer months.  Where I came from, summer rain was quite rare.

Another surprise awaited me when I experienced my first monsoon storm….flying dust followed by high winds, thunderclouds, lightning and torrential downpours – these were definitely things that I had not experienced in California.

*The Sonoran Desert has two rainy seasons, one in the winter and one in the summer.  Because of this our desert has the most animal and plant species of any North American desert.  We have over 2,000 native plant species alone.  

Although I love monsoon storms, I would dread going to work the day afterward because I knew that there could be a lot of tree damage to deal with due to the high winds…especially on the golf courses.  I would have to personally check all of the trees…some were completely blown over with roots sticking out and my crew would quickly cut them up.  Other trees would half in and half out of the soil and I would have to decide if we could save them or not.  

One summer brought a severe micro-burst over the area where I worked and the damage to the trees on the golf courses were thankfully, minimal, except for a large Saguaro cactus that was lost and just a handful of trees.


However, it was the damaged trees that I saw as a result of the storm in the residential areas that was shocking. 

There were the trees that had been completely blown over…

 Fallen Mesquite

 Fallen Palo Verde

 Fallen Ironwood

Some trees were completely snapped off at their base….

  Palo Verde

Some trees that completely lost their head…literally.

  This Palo Verde snapped off halfway up the trunk.

Some trees looked like they were swallowing up homes….
 

Although we did suffer some losses on the golf courses and landscape areas, the homeowners were hit the hardest in regards to damaged trees – mostly because their trees were either somewhat top-heavy or had not been pruned recently, or pruned correctly.  

You may be asking, what can I do to avoid having this happen to my tree?  Well, there are some steps that you can take to help prevent wind damage, BUT even if you maintain your trees correctly, wind damage may be unavoidable.  Following these tips will increase your chances of escaping severe wind damage, but nothing can totally prevent it due to circumstances beyond your control.

First, you may notice that all the trees in the pictures had a single (standard) trunk.  Imagine holding a lollipop at the base of the stick.  The top of the lollipop is quite heavy, isn’t it?  Well, this is the same for many single trunk trees.  Many desert trees such as Mesquite, Palo Verde, Sweet Acacia and Ironwood are available in both standard (single) or multi-trunk forms.  In my opinion, multi-trunk trees are more attractive in addition to the fact that they are less likely to suffer damage from wind because the weight of the branches is more evenly distributed among multiple tree trunks.

Second, proper pruning will help your trees to weather the storms.  I would always schedule our annual tree pruning to be done before the monsoon season would begin.  The International Society of Arboriculture has excellent information on how to prune mature trees which can be found here.  Trees add lots of value to your house – not just aesthetically, but in dollars as well.  So, it is worth the investment to hire a Certified Arborist to advise you on the correct way to prune your trees.  Most also offer pruning services for your trees as well.   *You can find a Certified Arborist in your area by following this link.

Last, make sure that your trees are watered correctly.  Trees need to be watered deeply, so that their roots will grow down into the soil.  Repeated shallow watering results in tree roots that are close to the surface and are not able to anchor a tree against high winds. 


As I write this, I see storm clouds gathering to the east.  I am hoping for a nice rainstorm tonight, without the high winds 😉