The Art Of Tree Pruning

A good pruning is like a good haircut; only those closest to you should know you’ve had one. If neighbors a block away can tell you’ve had pruning recently done, your trees were probably butchered rather than pruned. Since pruning wounds living tissue (except for deadwood), there should be good reason to prune, which includes making trees safer and healthier.

Most anyone can wield a chainsaw and cut away undesirable tree parts. Very few possess the skill and experience necessary to prune effectively.

Pruning is both an art and a science that usually takes years to master. Pruning is more about removing defects inside the crown than aesthetic shaping outside. Not only do you want your trees to look pleasing, but also to stand many years without harming life and property. Along with the ANSI A300 Pruning Standards, this slideshow provides the tree owner and upcoming arborist guidance.

Most ‘professional’ tree pruning does more harm than good! Long after the tree service has left your yard, it is you that will have to live with the results. Allow us to provide pruning specifications that will make your trees safe and healthy (photos copyright Randy Cyr, unless otherwise credited). 

Young Tree Training

tree pruning diagram

How to Prune a Tree

young tree pruning techniques

Tree Pruning Cuts

(A) Flush Cut (destructive cut within the branch collar)

(B) Stub Cut (destructive cut away from the branch collar)

(C) Rip Cut (destructive cut & tear without prior under-cut)

(D) Natural Target Pruning (beneficial cut just outside the branch collar where natural shedding occurs – every branch collar is different) – when pruned correctly, an unbroken “donut” of woundwood will form after about 1 growing season

(E) Branch Collar (branch attachment shoulder) – never cut

(F) Branch Bark Ridge (raised ridge above where branch joins trunk/ stem)

(G) Topping/Heading (indiscriminate, destructive tree height reduction)

(H) “U”-shaped Codominant Stems & Branches (adjoining, near equal-size) are less prone to fail

(I) “V”-shaped Codominant Stems & Branches are more prone to fail – especially when Included Bark (embedded bark) turns inward at the union, rather than outward to form a stem or branch bark ridge

(J) 1st Cut (face cut; wedge cut ¼ into stem or branch)

(K) 2d Cut (back cut)

(L) Final Cut (cut remaining stub outside the stem or branch bark ridge, close to the angle of the inside of the remaining stem or branch)

(M) Rehabilitative Pruning helps restore the natural crown structure after topping & storm damage by removing decaying stubs & weakly- attached sprouts

(N) Crown Reduction safely reduces tree height by removing larger branches (vertical leaders) at selected crotches (drop crotch pruning), rather than indiscriminately between lateral branches (topping)

(O) Crown Thinning safely opens the crown by removing lateral (smaller) branches, while leaving the leaders

(P) Branches larger than 1-inch diameter require 3 cuts to prevent tearing (rip cut) – 1st Cut (under-cut ¼ into branch)

(Q) 2d Cut (relief cut)

(R) Final Cut (natural target pruning)

Refresh the page to start the slideshow from the beginning:

Tree Evaluations & Reports

Before you call a tree removal service, let our impartial consulting arborists identify potential hazards and diseases, and recommend proven solutions. Our approach spares our clients needless worry and, often, thousands of dollars in removal and treatment costs.

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