Guide a Plant’s Growth

Tom Taylor and I went all through A&M Consolidated schools together in College Station. He went on to become a longtime administrator at Texas A&M before his retirement. Now he’s moved into part time gardener and tree-trimmer.

Tom sent me this photo a couple of months ago with an S.O.S. question about how best to prune and reshape it.

Tom’s little red oak looked like it had been hit by a meteor. He wondered what could be done to correct its odd growth.

I still haven’t figured out how to put marks on photos in Photoshop, so I printed it out and put marks where I’d suggest he trim the branches. My goal: to force it to fill in and aim its new growth in better directions. I scanned my marked-up photo and emailed it back to him. Then I pretty much forgot about it entirely.

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It was a crude way to show where cuts should be made, but it was the best way that I had. I explained to Tom that we were going to have to sacrifice a few healthy shoots to keep the tree balanced.

And here’s where we are now…
I got a follow-up note from Tom last week. (I got his permission to quote him.) Here’s what he wrote:

“This is my tree I asked you about. I thought you had lost your mind when you told me to chop the top out, but did it anyway. It is looking great. Guess you were right after all.”

And I guess the proof is in the photo he sent along with his note.

It’s looking like there might be a little touch-up trimming needed, as some of the new shoots are zooming ahead of the pack, and Tom will need to be sure not to let the guy wires girdle the trunk. But look how pretty this red oak is becoming after just a couple of months of the new growing season. Nice work, Tom! Your new career awaits you!
Posted by Neil Sperry
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