Why is pruning needed

This website is just a short but comprehensive tour into basic tree surgery and the need for it. The views expressed in it conforms with British Standards Publications and Industry Best Practice.

This website just gives an idea of what you, as the customer, can expect, and does not go into detail about the operations needed to actually achieve the desired end result, as this will be left to me as the contractor.

The need for pruning
It is often asked why pruning should be needed, as it does not occur in nature. Apart from this not being absolutely correct, for twig shedding is found under natural conditions, there are several answers to this question.

In nature, the tree or shrub that is produced is not always a good shape. Growth may be typical of the species, but under natural conditions plants are often found in ecological communities, in direct competition with various other plants, which in most cases will be larger. These larger plants frequently overpower the weaker ones, and unless the weaker plants adapt to the conditions, in the case formatively, they will die. These cases do not always apply in the garden, where the weaker ones can be protected by pruning the stronger subjects, be they trees or shrubs.

Trees and shrubs are commonly planted by the side of paths or roads, mostly as hedges and screens, on boundaries and against walls. If these subjects are not pruned, they will most probably outgrow their positions or impede vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

Development often involves farmland, natural woodland, and even gardens. The trees and shrubs that are preserved, those who are left to remain, are subject to entirely new set of conditions. These trees are often in enclosed position and exposed to the public eye. In order to help these trees conform to their new environments, it will be necessary to correct their shape and control their growth by pruning.

As trees grow towards maturity, they accumulate a number of dead and dying twigs and branches. These dead branches and twigs will need to be removed as they are extremely dangerous, unsightly, may hinder development, and harbour pests and diseases. It is crucial that diseased wood needs to be cut out as soon as possible, as the infection can rapidly spread through the whole tree, make it very dangerous and ultimately kill it.

Most plantings are made with a definite type of tree/shrub, which from experience is considered the most suitable form of the particular species or variety. Their training to these forms mostly involves the adoption of a training program, which may take several years to complete. The need for these forms has been universally recognised for generations and British Standards Publications lay down very definite sizes and types for the nursery stock, semi-mature and mature trees of many common species and varieties.

Only with good pruning and training can the grace and beauty of trees in summer and winter be fully realised. Good training and growth show up particularly with deciduous trees in winter. A well balanced tree improves most surroundings and helps to provide a restful scene for mind and eye, but a mutilated tree is depressing and, in a modern urban setting, may be seen by thousands.

Tree Surgery and Tree Contractors
Tree work should be taken seriously, for the sake of people’s safety, and for the tree’s beauty and health. Tree work is not like most other gardening work, and is not for the amateur. Don’t do any work yourself - if you can’t reach a branch from the ground, employ a professional tree surgeon.

Dead trees:
Diseased trees - remove as soon as possible to slow down disease spread; don’t move timber with bark attached
Other trees - remove whole tree or large branches over public land

Risk of direct damage:
Overhanging buildings - remove tree or reduce crown
Overhanging footways - raise crown to 8' (2.4m)
Overhanging roads - raise crown to 13' - 18' (4 - 5.5 m)
Walls - if closer than 2 m may need to remove tree
Overhead electricity lines - contact electricity provider & tree surgeon.
Overhead telephone wires - prune back to suitable growing points to give 3 metres clearance

Indirect damage (subsidence):
Ask a tree consultant and building surveyor / structural engineer for advice

Trees damaged 
By wind, salt spray, disease, frost, or bad pruning - may be sensible to cut out damaged branches back to suitable growing points.

Competition between trees
Remove weaker trees, or sometimes can prune to keep both

Increasing fruit production:
This is a specialised skill - ask tree surgeon

Letting in more light, or opening up views:
Raise, thin or reduce crowns; or remove trees and maybe replace with different species