“Does this tree need to be pruned?”

Our philosophy is that a naturally grown tree that has had no human interference living outside of a man-made environment does not need to be pruned. But the truth is that in the urban environment, humans and trees coexist, and we often have desires and objectives that require altering the tree in some way. A good example is the need to prune a tree that is encroaching a sidewalk or roadway.

As tree stewards, we must understand that once we begin to tamper with the natural form of a tree, we often end up having to do more in the future, so the general rule of “the less interference, the better” applies. A good example of this is the future pruning required of a small tree that has been purchased from a nursery. We, as consumers, have trained the stores that we want to buy baby trees “that look like adult trees.”  In nature, a young tree doesn’t look anything like a mature tree.  And so—in order to make us happy—nurseries get busy making pruning cuts that make the tree look the way we expect it to.  Because the natural structure and growth pattern have been disrupted, that cute little tree left on its own will not grow into the beautiful mature tree that you envision. In this case, it is important to have nursery trees pruned when they are young, to encourage them back to their natural form so they hopefully need less corrective pruning as they mature. Had you grown your tree from a seed, it would likely be just fine without any help from us.

Often the pruning needs of a tree have been precipitated by previous maintenance strategies, and current strategies will generally mean that more will be needed in the future. Bear this in mind when we decide whether or not a tree “needs” to be pruned.