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For the better part of a decade I cared for Brooklyn Botanic Garden's tree collection. In that time I came to respect plants' limits and learn how to help them manifest their essential character.



You should know that I really love trees. I love that every specimen is very much itself - that two trees aren't the same simply because they're the same species or cultivar. A tree isn't necessarily "young" because it was planted just a few years ago. (It may exhibit traits of old age as a result of stress), nor is it necessarily dangerous because it's large, nor unworkable because the canopy is dense. Each specimen is unique, warranting sincere consideration before trying to align its constraints with our desires.


Start with feelings or objectives rather than prescriptions. Sentiments like "I'd like more light" or "it's feeling chaotic" allow room for skillful, tree-centered consideration. Prescriptions like "I'd like that branch removed" may result in damage where other methods could have achieved the same ends with less damage.


Pruning is wounding - categorically. Big cuts are big wounds and small cuts are small wounds. Trees tend to respond more effectively to small wounds, while big wounds can lead to disease, decay and increased risk. Skillful pruning often involves making a large number of small cuts rather than a smaller number of large cuts. This can be labor intensive by comparison, but is much more refined aesthetically and can prevent serious damage that costs more to manage over time or even necessitates removal.


Expert Pruning
Great pruning works with plants' natural tendencies, both biologically and aesthetically, while accommodating site constraints and stakeholder interests. When done expertly, pruned specimens often feel almost magically better, often with no obvious signs of intervention.


Root collar excavation
Poorly planted trees often suffer from a host of problems including malformed roots. They are particularly susceptible to girdling roots which circle and constrict the trunk, interfering with a tree's ability to move water and nutrients. The effects of improper planting generally take years to manifest, surprising clients when a tree that has looked good for years suddenly shows signs of decline.


Soil Testing
Symptoms above ground often begin below. These Pin Oak leaves show signs of an iron deficiency. In this case the soil has plenty of iron but it's unavailable due to soil pH.

Dynamic tree cable

Cabling and Bracing
Defects happen, both naturally and as a result of poor "care". Often structural vulnerabilities can be adressed with a little support. Where possible, I favor dynamic cable with non-penetrating hardware. This avoids drilling into trees and allows trees to continue moving in ways that encourage them to be as self-supporting as possible. These cables act as back-stops during the most severe weather events while letting trees carry on as usual on the average day.

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