2 questions to ask about trees

Discussion in 'Woody Plants' started by carltonware, Jul 25, 2007.

  1. carltonware

    carltonware Member

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    Should Arbutus trees drop their leaves in July? Our neighbour has two trees on their lot which have dropped leaves around this time for the last 3 or 4 years. Could this be a sign that the trees are dying or could it mean a lack of watering. They never seem to water the bank that their trees are on.

    Also does topping fir hemlock or cedar trees hurt the root structure? Can it weaken the tree and cause it to fall by wind in the winter?

    Thanks
     
  2. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    They drop their old leaves (the ones produced spring 2006) about now. If that's all that's happening, then it's OK. If any of the 2007 crop of new leaves are dying, then it is in trouble.
    It doesn't harm the roots, but it does harm the crown structure, and should not be done. A topped tree will re-grow several new, but weakly-attached, new tops, which can easily be broken off later in storms.
     
  3. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    If a topped tree regrows leaders, I agree they replace the danger that the topping was meant to eliminate. However, I have seen some topped trees here in town that have not resprouted. I wonder why, or whether it is only a matter of time.

    Speaking as someone who lives UNDER a neighbour's conifer that they refuse to cut, I would be GRATEFUL if they topped it regardless of the effect on the tree's health. I guess the motto is to remain vigilant, and trim newly formed leaders when they grow too large. If the topped trees you are asking about are also owned by your neighbour, consider yourself fortunate if you have a neighbour who will take responsibility for his/her trees.

    Trees are getting so political nowadays that is almost impossible to have a rational discussion about one, and I think it is really important not to make remarks like "topping should not be done" because those remarks foster a reverence for trees that is often applied over and above the interests of people who are affected.

    We are engaged in a bitter battle over the tree next door, funnily enough with my family and me, the tree enthusiast, on the 'cut it down' side and they, the tree idiots who merely regard the thing with reverance because it is old and have no grasp on the concept of planting new trees, on the "keep it and we don't care if it falls on your house and dominates your life" side.

    The worst of it is that they have had a few arborists in to look at it and make recommendations, and each and every one of these cursed-so-called-professionals has failed to look at the overall context for the people, and has recommended only what is best for the tree. Really: the tree sits on their property a good distance from their house. On the other hand, the tree envelops our house in its branches, darkens our yard, sucks all available moisture and nutrients from our soil, showers debris on our house, and leans threateningly toward us. It should be apparent even to idiots that this tree has grown to the point where it is a profound negative for us, however nice it is for the owners. And obviously it will continue to grow in girth especially as it may be approaching maximum height to the point where our entire 25 foot front yard will be engaged. And yet not one of those arborists has had enough empathy for us to suggest to the tree's owners that it really should be taken down. It's all about reverence for the tree.

    If I ever disappear off these boards you can assume the tree has fallen and crushed me, or that I've had a heart attack from the stress of fighting to have it taken down.

    And Michael, you'll be the one I'll blame :-)
     
  4. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    "The worst of it is that they have had a few arborists in to look at it and make recommendations, and each and every one of these cursed-so-called-professionals has failed to look at the overall context for the people, and has recommended only what is best for the tree. "

    as an arborist amongst other things I take slight offence to this statement. I agree that it may seem subjective but as a tree person I am asked to give my opinion of the tree and my job is the care of woody plants including trees, not placating homeowners. The owners of the tree can take my opinions and information and make their own decision about the scope of work or method of care they undertake.

    In regards to a blanket statement ' topping shall not be done" I do agree that in some cases it is the best option compared to other methods of care and based on the parameters given. Topping a conifer generally will produce a tree that in time is more likely to fail thus it is certainly not recommended as a care technique. In those cases where topping would be a necessary care method I would certainly consider removal and replanting with a more appropriate species.

    If you are concerned about the tree crushing you or your things, thats when an arborist can help give you an idea of the level of hazard. Based on their (hopefully) educated and expert opinon of the criteria (size of potential part failure, likelihood of failure and value of the potential target). The information they give you lets you make the decision about how much hazard (how high of a rating) you are willing to accept. If the tree owner is aware that the tre is high hazard and they dont do anything about it and it fails and causes damage, I would be not want to be their insurance provider.

    A big tree is not necessarily a big hazard, there are many signs and issues that add up to high hazard rating, hopefully the arborists that make comment understand these things and can explain them to you.

    for some good info ( I know, I have posted this link many times....) try www.treesaregood.com and look at their page about hazard trees.

    so, after that, smile, have fun and hug a tree once in a while. :)
     
  5. carltonware

    carltonware Member

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    Yikes! I think I may have opened a wound or two with my question. I can see the reasoning on both sides. I am the one that is not sure about the topping of the trees but my neighbour across the street wanted to know if I really wanted the grove of trees that stand in front of my house. She said she would offer to have two of them topped at her expense. How low they would be cut is one issue and how much control I would have over the topping is another issue. There is also the issue of liability if injury occurred while topping the trees on my property. She said that they cast a shadow on her house in the afternoon, something I looked for but am not sure if our trees are related to that issue. I think that perhaps a view might be the real reason. She also doesn't like any tree debris on her driveway and is usually out there washing the driveway down and constantly looking at the bottom of the driveway to see if there is more there. And no, our house isn't the only one that has trees near her yard (I think they are fixing the house up for resale).
    On the other hand I can sympathize with the lady who has a neighbour's tree leaning over her house. I am not sure which area you live in but I thought that any branches that infringe on your property --- you have a right to cut back to the property line -- as long as you let your neighbour know you are doing it. I have a similiar problem at the corner of my house in a neighbour's backyard. Several years ago 2 small cedars and a fir tree were planted in the corner of the lot as part of a landscaping scheme to sell the house. What idiot would plant three trees a 1 and 1/2 feet apart with no consideration for future growth. The trees have now passed the roof of my house and are growing branches into our yard plus soon the cedars will be leaving debris on my roof and in my gutters which will have to be cleaned at my expense, since I doubt that they or anyone else in that situation would offer to pay for the constant cleanup.
    Any thoughts or suggestions from the arborists?
     
  6. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    no wounds here, open discussion is fun! :)
    you can cut to the property line, you dont need to tell anyone but the pruning should be done in a way that is best for the tree which sometimes means reaching over the fence to make a proper collar cut, this you would be best suited to mention to the neighbor as it is technically trespassing.

    Arbutus shed leaves in the summer, thats normal.
    Not much you can do about the cedars except cut them down or clean up after them.
    The more you remove from the canopy the more the tree will respond with new vegetation. This makes some folks think that the hard pruning 'invigorates' plants when in reality it is a response to the huge stress of losing most of the food producing leaves and is tremendously taxing on the plants reserves.
    Arbutus are not known as a high risk species for failure as far as I can garner.
    People who whine about a few leaves on their lawn and constantly wash their driveway should consider moving deeper in to the city where there is more pavement and fewer trees. :)
     
  7. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Carltonware, your growing problem with the three trees is exactly the point - you are going to be sentenced to slavery to the trees soon. We have been for years. And because the tree is your neighbours' it seems like slavery to the neighbours. Our neighbours even smugly informed us once that our gutters were overflowing; their house is tall enough and far enough from the tree that they did not even know that its debris fills gutters. They thought there was something wrong with us that we were not cleaning them. It is enough to give you a stroke.

    Paul, you can safely assume the offense is mutual, and that mine predates yours. But my comments weren't aimed specifically at you, while the three arborists who assessed this tree dismissed my needs, specifically. They all knew they were being brought in to mitigate the effect of the tree on us, and not a one of them took the time or had the courtesy to come over to ask us just what it was about the tree that was bothering us to the point of asking to have it removed. Without even clapping eyes on us, they all dismissed us as being stupid homeowners, unable to assess risk or anything else, who had to be "placated," and came up with a pruning solution that did not address our issues. That IS offensive.

    It's a funny take on arborism to feel that your clients are trees, not people, but I suppose it's the trees that draw arborists into doing what they do and so it isn't surprising. But I wonder that it survives the realities of practice. The trees wouldn't need arborists if they did not happen to be growing among people, and so the people obviously matter, not to mention that the people pay. So scorn for the people factor strikes me as a risky strategy.

    And I have to admit that being treated with scorn on matters concerning my own property makes me see very red. It has not been a decision reached lightly or frivolously to ask to have this tree removed. Fully half of our bitty little front yard is now ceded to the neighbours' tree canopy and root zone, which means our neighbours control our yard. We are prevented from using our yard as we see fit because the neighbours are busy using our yard as THEY see fit, to store and succor their tree. And because it's a tree that's involved rather than a septic field or a propane tank, the neighbours get the hero edit even as they rob us of our property, and hold a sword of Damocles over our heads. They use the tree to imbue themselves with an aura of virtue in their own minds.

    No, not all big trees are in danger of falling, but this one is. I've had an intimate, hands-on relationship with this tree for 15 years and have studied the issue a bit as well. My opinion may not be bankable or valid in court because I don't have the right credentials, but I don't think it merits automatic dismissal, nor that I deserve to be patronized on the subject.

    It's kind of funny to be getting the "bad guy/stupid homeowner" edit even here on the forum where I think it is clear enough that I'm a tree enthusiast. You know, the kind that traipses around the Riverview site on a rainy day hanging on every word the arborist says on the tree tour. Also, I've been living with and servicing the tree for 15 years, as it's achieved a size and a degree of intrusion to the structure and created a workload that no other sane person would have tolerated for this long. It's not like I've come to a snap decision. But none of that seems to matter; if I want the tree down, I must be a bad guy. Never mind that my intent for that part of my yard is to PLANT trees.

    The treesaregood site exactly illustrates my problem. I feel totally patronized by that site from its name all the way to the page about hazards, and I can't find any useful information there by the way (if it's the hazard page in FAQ you're referring to; can't find any other hazard info). The overwhelming message there is that if I were a smarter person, as smart as those arborists, then I would appreciate trees enough that I wouldn't be complaining about them. It is the same attitude that one is tempted to have toward the lady who sweeps her driveway obsessively. Maybe instead of exhorting people to hug trees, arborists should try hugging some people instead. That lady may have a story you have no idea of; perhaps she lost a child to cancer and sweeping clears her mind or something. The issue of her sweeping to me is a bit like the issue of free speech: I may not agree with paving and sweeping, but I'll defend her right to do it.

    Her right to demand the removal of trees for reasons that are frivolous or financial, however, I wouldn't defend. Carltonware, I think I would begin by asking her to put her request and rationale in writing. If there are legitimate issues, she won't hesitate. But if she is going to sell soon, I think she might hesitate, and she might not lie in writing since you could probably sue her if she's caused you to devalue your property to enhance the value of hers. (In our case, since the neighbours just sold, they have just enhanced the value of their property - as the tree provides them with privacy, greenery - at our expense). Even if she can convince you that her issues are legitimate, I don't think I would top a tree, mainly because you don't know that someone irresponsible won't own the property by the time the replacement leaders get to be dangerous. I almost think that if a tree needs topping, then it should simply be replaced by one that won't need topping.

    As a bottom line, I don't think tree conflicts are really about trees at all, but about people trying to control each other, and each other's properties. I think arborists should be conscious of situations where they are being used by people to bully the neighbours, which is what the arborists in our situation have allowed to happen.
     
  8. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I most certainly hope I didnt infer that I treat any of my clients or people that I deal with (including forum members) as such.

    "It's kind of funny to be getting the "bad guy/stupid homeowner" edit even here on the forum "

    my general take on the situation is that an arborist should not be one to judge who is right or wrong, the arborist should provide information as best as they are able to the client regarding their tree's condition and proper care. the client makes the decision about what route to take based on that information. I dont judge the character or intelligence of my clients, thats the job of a different profession.

    re the hazards web page I was referrig to : http://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/hazards.aspx is what I had in mind, it is a basic information page showing what to look for as a layman, if you find that there are many warning factors then its time to consult a tree professional.
     
  9. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    I just posted on another madrone / arbutus thread - ours are dropping enormous amounts of leaves. Because our madrones are big. Normal.


    Topping hemlock >> I read that topping trees can affect the roots, at least a little bit. I don't remember the source.

    Depending on the size of the trunk, it can cause decay that will descend the trunk for many feet. In some trees, depending on height, the decay can reach clear down to the roots. I've cut-open some trees like that during removal, just to see the inside.

    Topping can weaken.

    Part of it depends on how big the cut is. If it was only a 1" stem where the cut was made, that's not comparable to 6" cut across a stem (trunk).
     
  10. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Paul that's a good take, that the arborist makes recommendation on the "tree's condition and proper care." I think I would only add to that "and its effect or potential effect on surroundings." As I said, my neighbours are oblivious to the fact that the tree drops debris, and because this is a dense tree, it drops so much that it is changing the relative elevation of the yards. I think maybe one has to educate some clients not only on tree care, but on people care! We didn't expect the arborist to be our advocate, but were depending on him to be a voice of reason, and he only functioned as the voice of the tree.

    Anyway, it's our problem to solve, and sorry for detouring your thread, Carltonware. Hope the detour provided a little assistance.
     

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