Limbing up Spruce? (pics)

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by jbnj, Nov 28, 2008.

  1. jbnj

    jbnj Member

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    I have a large Bluce Spruce in my backyard that the previous owner probably should never have planted in this location and then let it go. It is now growing into everything around it: patio, barbecue, steps, pathway, retaining wall.
    I would like to simply remove it and plant something more appropriate for the location, but it does provide a lot of privacy and my wife loves the tree.

    As an alternative, I am considering removing the lower branches to about 7 feet high to allow for people to walk under/around it more easily. I have a fence that provides privacy up to that height. I know this is probably considered heresey, but I can't think of any other options.

    Any thoughts?

    http://i33.tinypic.com/2j298qr.jpg
    http://i34.tinypic.com/24who9i.jpg
     
  2. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    It could be an option, what it will do for the tree is leave multiple points of entry for possible infection, different wind loading characteristics and depending on the viewer, may leave it unsightly.
    From the pictures you posted I wouldnt say its that horrible of a treatment option, other than outright removal.
     
  3. jbnj

    jbnj Member

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    Thanks for the input.

    Can I do this in the winter and what is the proper technique?
     
  4. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Turning it into a "Calgary Palm" would be a mistake. And once you scalp the bottom you can't put it back.
     
  6. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    indeed, you cant put it back but what is the larger harm in limbing up a tree (to 6 or 7 feet)that appears to be of fairly large stature? Vs removal it seems reasonable treatment to me.
     
  7. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    I think it's more important to note that many conifers in nature lack lower limbs.

    To remove the lower foliage would provide a look that easily fits a natural look seen in forests.

    Conifers usually branch to the ground when out in some field.

    The Calgary Palm is merely a city dweller concept.

    jbnj ...

    Those can looks marvelous with some lower limbs removed. If you have patience to do it in two stages over 2 growing seasons, which would be about a year and a half, that could be even better.

    With the fences blocking wind already, the wind and load thing is virtually inconsequential.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2008
  8. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    There's a big difference though in that where they lose their lower branches in nature through being shaded, they 'fade out', giving a diffuse lower edge to the crown. This looks much nicer than the very hard, abrupt bottom edge of the crown of a pruned tree.

    I'd leave the branches on this one down to the ground. The lower crown has already reached as wide as it is ever going to get - note that it is as wide (or even slightly wider) at 3-4 metres above ground, than it is at the base. Although Blue Spruce branches do get longer as they grow, they also bend down more under their weight, and the net effect is for the crown diameter to stay the same or get slightly less with time. The effect is more obvious with an older tree - see in this pic that the crown is mostly cylindrical not conical, with the widest point actually over half way up to the top:
    http://www.wnmu.edu/academic/nspages2/gilaflora/p_pungens.jpg
     
  9. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    This specimen isn't a 200' tall forest giant. It will not look natural with the basal skirt removed.
     
  10. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    They look marvelous in landscapes with some lower limbs revealed, especially when the trunk is exposed as an extra feature.

    The person posted for a solution. Removing lower limbs is probably their best option.

    For the person who posted, the advice I offered is based on above 3000 pruning projects, and pruning at 2 university campuses and 4 country clubs.

    It's a time-proven fact that Blue Spruce can look very good with lower limbs removed. It's a matter of whether you will enjoy the tree. If you were going to remove the tree, you would have nothing to lose by removing the lower limbs first, and seeing how you like the appearance.

    Michael shared something about "fade out" ...

    That's why I adviced removal in stages. So that's just been covered as an alternative fashion of getting the same effect by a different means.

    It's really minor and inconsequential - the tree can handle it easily. Considering the needs of the landscape, it was a good option to consider. Leaving the lowest limbs and allowing the growth to reduce useable square footage of ground area is typically not good in smaller landscaped settings.

    I just raised the foliage of a Blue Spruce in Beaverton, raising the bottom of the canopy from 7' high to 9' high instead, for headroom at some steps just above the patio. It was about 1/3 larger of a tree than what you have. It had already been raised incrementally. And it looks very good. The owners of that tree also have gained all the useable living space beneath the tree - about 300 square feet - rather than loosing all that area and more. And that's exactly the benefit you were seeking: saving the tree and being able to use the space.

    Just 2 months ago, I came across a similar scenerio where a cedar tree was blocking the view toward a front home entryway, and the view from the entry way and front windows looking outward. That tree - 45' tall - was raised from near ground level to about 7' high. The gain was not just a view and a more attractive front yard, but the homeowner picked up 400 to 500 square feet of front yard. That's almost half of a thousand square feet for just a single tree.
     
  11. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Would you buy a Christmas tree with the bottom branches skinned off and display it in your house?
     
  12. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I think your metaphor is irrelevant Ron, we arent discussing a christmas tree. I offered my suggestion as one of two choices, prune to raise the skirt vs removal. I think MD is in the same boat.

    In regards to your Christmas tree question, no, I wouldnt buy a tree with most of the lower branches removed. :)
     
  13. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    What we may not relish doing to our tree
    with lower limb removal may not have
    much pertinence to someone else that
    is considering the removal of the tree.
    Sometimes I wonder if the advice given
    in this forum at times is ever stated from
    an I've done or I’ve dealt with it view as
    opposed to ramrod a personal view and
    not care at all what happens to the tree
    later on.

    Well, in this case I would like to see the
    tree live a little longer right where it is,
    so here goes what I'd do and it is pretty
    simple. Cut two feet of the lowest limbs
    off all around the tree for one season.
    Cut off the next two feet in the second
    season and then cut the final three feet
    the third year and be done with it.

    I would recommend a licensed professional
    to come in and do the work however while
    attention to specialized care given to this
    tree with each session of limb removal.
    Yes, the seven feet can be taken off all
    at once in select areas and not risk harm
    to the tree. In some areas removal of all
    of the desired lower limbs done in the
    Spring can be advantageous, much like
    what is done around here a lot by a host
    of licensed arborists with Coastal Redwoods.

    I feel having the skirts taken off does
    not increase the likelihood of disease
    or increase the potential of insect
    damage if the work is done by trained
    hands. As seen, in Oregon landscapes
    and even in Oregon University landscape
    grounds, bare lower trunks from pruning
    off the lower skirts should dispel notions
    that some of these trees are more prone
    to peril if they have had some of their
    lower branches pruned off. On the
    contrary, the trees may be better off
    for the long term in that the incidence
    of a Spider Mite infestation, for one,
    can greatly decrease when the dust,
    and fallen debris matter impacted
    lower skirts are taken off on Picea
    pungens
    in a landscape.

    Jim
     
  14. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Hollies are also very commonly stripped up, and are just as ugly as young conical conifers that have been so treated.

    CLEARING THE TRUNK

    Before clearing the trunk, consider the ultimate shape, size, and habit of the mature tree. This will dictate the extent and height of trunk clearance. Most members of the Cupressaceae, and species such as
    Abies lasiocarpa that produce a skirt of foliage to the ground, are best with lower branches retained

    --Brickell/Joyce, Pruning & Training (1996, Dorling Kindersley Limited, London)
     
  15. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I agree.
     
  16. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    I was in a nice neighborhood called Waterhouse today where one of the first Street of Dreams developments was built here, back in the mid-80s.

    There were several blue spruce, and at least half of the big ones had the lower limbs removed and looked great. Some had limbs low and those look good too.

    Just shows that the people pruning in that neighborhood know how to use both options.

    The ones with the foliage removed, provided a view of other shrubs and groundcovers. The ones raised actually provided far more design interest. While the low foliage ones were mainly used to block views of fences and stuff.

    One was left just for the foliage to the ground look - not blockage of anything.
     
  17. davelll

    davelll Member

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    Spruces are one of those conifers that respond well to shearing or pruning, it would be very posssible to manage the space wqithout removing all the branches, you could carve out a bar be que space on one side, clean up the dead needles from the interior to make it inviting and allow more light penetration, and keep the other side trimmed to allow walking space to the gate. The bar be que area could then be expanded with pavers or gravel and kept clean of falling needles by sweeping or washing, the profile of the tree would still sweep down to the ground and you would have your expanded living space
     

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