Pruning With No Purpose

When Pruning Blows Off-Course

Tree that had split, probably in a storm, wasn’t given up for lost. Some imaginative wood carver in McKinney saw things still hidden within it. (Thanks to Facebook friend Laurie Smith for spotting this and giving me the location.)

I asked an award-winning bird carver how he got his red-tailed hawk so perfectly done. “Well, Neil, I start out with a block of wood, and I remove everything that doesn’t look like a red-tailed hawk.”

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What that said to me was that good sculptors have a natural eye for their three-dimensional art. They know what they want it to look like, and they work constantly toward that goal. With plant pruners, that’s not always the case. Such it is with the examples below.

Live oak pruned by big rigs

You shouldn’t plant a live oak next to a sidewalk in the first place. Or beside a busy street. Mind you, I had to circle the block and wait for a lull in traffic on my side to get this photo for you.


“Honey, we need a taller ladder”

Sometimes we decide to bring formal shapes to tall shrubs, but then they outgrow our abilities to reach their tops. That creates a hazard and a problem. The result is a need to replace.


“Oops. I think we planted the wrong shrub.”

These are regular green pittosporums in the corner of somebody’s walk. My estimate is they are about 10 inches from the walk and 10 inches from the house. And about 12 inches apart. Expected mature spread of regular green pittosporums: more like 16 or 18 feet. Feet! I see a lot of pruning in these folks’ future.


Nasty Nandinas

I park near these poor, mistreated babies two or three times every week, and my heart cries for them. (No, this is not along my driveway.) You don’t prune nandinas across their tops. You remove the tallest canes back to the ground and let them grow to fill in. Hopefully these folks will get the message before it’s too late. What you don’t want is the “palm-tree look” with nandinas. (More on that later.)


“Always make your cuts flush with the trunk.”

I’m quoting myself on this one. This poor tree is going to die an early death of decay. Those stubs just can’t heal properly, and as the decay sets in, it will move down the trunk. I don’t recall specifically where I took this photo, but it was several years ago. I wish I could find it again. Even more, I wish these people would find a certified arborist to get this cleaned up.


If you thought “topping” crape myrtles was good…

Any time I write or tell people that topping crape myrtles is a bad idea, I get a ton of push-backs from people who insist that it makes their plants perform better. So, if topping is a great plan, why not carry it to an extreme like these folks did? This is about as bad as it gets. (You knew I couldn’t get this close to the topic of “pruning” and not mention crape myrtles.)


From the category of “What on earth were they thinking?”

This is just awful. We ran across this on our way back from East Texas. Methinks they wanted palms instead of pines. This pruning job couldn’t have been easy!


“Well, I think it’s a live oak???”

I’m not a big advocate of extensive formal pruning, and this is about as extensive as it gets. This was a lot of work initially, and it’s a lot of upkeep year after year. But I do have to admire their diligence. I wonder how they trim clear to the middle.


When you think you’ve seen about everything…

This is a photo I’ve had for a long time. Someone in East Dallas created this gem, and it’s a great place to end.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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