At last, signs of spring are emerging in the Shenandoah Valley! Daffodils are in bloom and each day brings trees starting to flower or leaf out. Unfortunately, another all-too-common sign of spring are trees with their limbs given a severe 'flat-top' pruning. The official term for this is topping, a practice with no redeeming value and frowned upon by certified, professional arborists.
So why would a homeowner hire a person to do something so drastic to his trees? Some believe that it invigorates a tree, or reduce potential storm damage and make the tree easier to maintain. The facts are that topping destroys the natural beauty of a tree, shortens its lifespan, and makes it vulnerable to insects and disease. Further, the tree produces too many short limbs in response that will require future maintenance.
Throughout our area, there are many trees that were simply planted or allowed to grow in the wrong place. There are too many oversized trees trying to survive under power lines, and we have all seen the bizarre shapes that have resulted from years of utility maintenance crews cutting the part of the tree that has dared to reach its natural height and shape. In other cases, trees that are far too large for a front lawn or planted too close to the house or other structure create challenges as well.
The right tree in the right place requires minimal maintenance and provides many benefits, such as year-round beauty, shade in the summer, cleaner air through absorption of carbon dioxide, slowing erosion, and added property value. Scientific studies have demonstrated that spending time in green spaces such as parks or tree-filled neighborhoods can reduce stress, and improve overall health and well-being.
Why spend money paying for a practice that does more harm than good? Consider instead replacing any wrong trees in the wrong spaces with ones suitable for the growing conditions. With many wonderful choices available, any professional arborist or nursery can help make the right selection. Help keep the "woods" in Woodstock! Happy Arbor Day on April 26!
Joan Comanor, Woodstock Tree Board