Stabilizing a Blue Spruce

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by John Loveland, Aug 16, 2005.

  1. John Loveland

    John Loveland Member

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    Location:
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    We have an 80 foot blue spruce whose trunk is about 10 feet from our house. The tree is beautiful, but I'm concerned that the strong winds in this area could cause the tree to fall onto our house someday. We're having to consider having the tree removed. I saw in an earlier thread that topping a spruce is strongly discouraged, but I'm wondering if this could be done as a last resort to stabilize the tree and prolong the time that we can keep it.
     
  2. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Hi John,

    I am not sure what you mean by stabilize, but if you top the tree it will grow back thicker at the top and thus catch more wind, so unless you plan to take off a lot of height I would not reccomend that. Perhaps you should consult an arborist to assess the health and strength of the tree.
     
  3. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Location:
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    What reasons other than wind makes you fear that the
    tree may fall on your house? Your line of thought is
    not out of bounds at first glance as homeowners here
    have dealt with the consequences later of having
    Coastal Redwoods fall on their homes or have the
    roots crack the foundations of their and their neighbors
    homes.

    If the purpose to remove the top of the tree is for
    prevention purposes then removing over half of the
    tree is not totally out of line either, although I doubt
    any current day arborist will recommend doing that.
    I have seen it done just for the same reason why you
    want to. It will take a long while before the tree will
    garner any real shape for you but I've seen a Blue
    Spruce around here in a front yard that does not look
    too bad now after having been decapitated about 10
    years ago. Normally, we look at things from a purist
    sense in that removal of the tops and removal of the
    skirts will diminish the look of the trees to the onlooker.
    What is not always pointed out is that the trees are not
    theirs and in some cases drastic measures much be utilized
    as long as we can live with the results of our decisions.

    Bottom line is the tree is yours to do whatever you
    want with. As long as you do not kill it then go ahead
    and clip it as far back as you want. Years ago I bought
    a select form of Colorado Blue Spruce that had been
    decapitated as the owner wanted to control the growth
    and make a bonsai out of it. Well, years later I have
    to admit that the tree has regained its shape and is a
    gorgeous example of a 5' tall, man created dwarf.
    With a little effort, you can make your tree look
    like a representative semi dwarf form in time.

    Jim
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2005
  4. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    it may be able to be pruned to reduce the wind sail effect. we do that for douglas fir in this area and its called spiral pruning, basically a climber goes up the tree in a corkscrew fashion and reduces the number of branches making the wind able to pass through the tree more efficiently and reduce the drag which may induce failure.
     
  5. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Thanks Paul for coming in. Mine was the least best option
    based on the original question but can be done if warranted.
    Eric's suggestion of having an arborist come in was valid as
    even with topping this tree back in half or more probably
    will require more than one cut to be safe and should be done
    by a professional.

    Jim
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Have it looked at by ISA Certified Arborist(s), get opinion(s) on need for action. Aesthetic considerations aside, what we know about how trees function would rule against any form of substantial crown reduction, occasional instances of trees surviving it - for awhile, anyway - notwithstanding.

    http://www.plantamnesty.org/stoptopping/5reasonstostoptopping.htm
     
  7. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Just a small point of note: in some jurisdictions (almost(?) always cities), there are bylaws that require you to get municipal approval for tree removal. In the case of property endangerment, permission to remove a tree is almost(?) always granted. However, in the case of "cleaning up the property", there's been a local case with some press where the owners of the property are only allowed to remove one tree a year...

    Of course, this doesn't apply to this particular situation, but it might in others where people are reading this thread for info.
     
  8. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Location:
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    I understand there are ordinances and restrictions
    for working on and removal of trees in various
    locales. I am from a state in which some coastal
    municipalities will not allow the homeowner the
    right to remove dying trees. Even the removal of
    certain dead trees without a permit will be considered
    a city code violation.

    If there was to be an issue over rules and regulations
    whereby homeowners could not even prune or remove
    dead plant material then I would think the proper time
    to have made a stipulation was before anyone made a
    post in this thread. The question asked was leading
    enough to let others know that any possible answers
    based on what we know of this situation required an
    answer that may not please everyone (with my response,
    please no one), including the spiral cutting (thinning)
    of the tree itself to allow more air circulation and to
    limit the weight of the tree from falling on the house.

    Ron, custom procedure is to cut the top third off
    the tree and let it set for 2-3 years and then cut
    out the next third. Most of the trees that are
    decapitated go into an abrupt shock. By cutting
    the tree in thirds we limit or at least think we limit
    the amount of stress on the tree. The deadheading
    of the tree is not my first concern. It is, where are
    the roots growing right now in relation to the house?
    Since the tree is that close to the house then any
    pruning may accentuate the roots from growing
    even faster under the house making the removal
    of such a large tree a strong possibility rather than
    having a professional clean it up and give it some
    wind resistance when the tree may fall sometime
    on the house anyway. We do not know if the tree
    is already listing and we do not know anything about
    the root system and the soil condition whether it is
    a waterlogged clay soil or not which may preclude
    the attempted saving of this tree to start with. We
    can worry about a city code or a county ordinance
    later before any work is to be done I would think.

    Jim
     
  9. John Loveland

    John Loveland Member

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    My thanks for all of the thoughtful responses. I'll look for a certified arborist, as some of you suggested. Along with the comments on root condition (and what the roots might also do to our house), it makes a lot of sense to involve a specialist. The suggestion for spiral pruning is especially appealing to me -- it's a technique that I wasn't aware of.

    The prospect of needing city approval to remove the tree hadn't occurred to me. However, the tree also threatens a nearby power line. I think the city would share my concern.

    The link to the Plant Amnesty page was eye-opening. I'll ask them if they have information more specific to conifers.

    But I appreciate very much the empathetic support for topping the tree if it comes to that, as well as the suggestions for how to have it done. Our bedrooms are close enough to the tree to put my sons at risk. While it would be very sad to lose the beauty of the full tree, the truth is that it's so big that people rarely look up at the top of it. We mostly enjoy the tree up close.

    John
     
  10. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Plant amnesty is a cause worht supporting in my eye, I put some bucks out this year for a membership and I intend on doing it again. here is another link regarding tree care:

    http://www.treesaregood.com

    it is sponsored by the ISA (membership dues that is, including my bucks) and has some good information.
     

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