Trim bottom of Spruce?

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by ddbenner, Jan 28, 2008.

  1. ddbenner

    ddbenner Member

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    We have a 50 foot Blue Spruce that was planted too close to the concrete drive to drive around saftly. Can the bottom 6 Foot of branches be trimed off? What time of year is this to be done?
     
  2. LabTea

    LabTea Active Member

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    I don't see why trimming 6ft off of a 50ft blue spruce will be a problem. Apparently the spring is the best time to prune conifers.
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    If it's in the way you will have to do it as soon as you can. Otherwise, it's visually preferable to allow conical evergreens to branch to the ground.
     
  4. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    Sometimes, that's the only option for a pyramidal conifer where room is needed.
     

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  5. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I'm not sure if it's relevant for your spruces but sometimes the lower branches support the ones above them, which support the ones above them, etc. That means that removing the lowest branches can lead the whole canopy to droop and open up. It may indeed be necessary for you to do this cutting for the space at ground level, but in case you value the visual integrity of the canopy higher up (say, from a second story window), you should be aware that view may change.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2008
  6. ddbenner

    ddbenner Member

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    Thanks for all the info,
    From the pictures of tree I think I sent, does this look like a tree that is suported by lower branches?
     

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  7. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    That tree is too nice to cut the lower branches off! Move the driveway instead!
     
  8. LabTea

    LabTea Active Member

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    Yeah this is a really nice tree. At least you have the luxury of letting it grow and not worry about it interfering with power lines from what I see in the pictures.
     
  9. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I'm by no means the most knowledgeable conifer person here, but to my eye it looks as though a few lower branches might already be missing, since the lowest part of the canopy is not as dense as higher up. What you will see, therefore, if you remove the lowest branches is a stretching of the gaps higher up as is now happening at the bottom. Not disastrous by any means, and the canopy higher up should remain nice.

    Such trees usually cannot or will not be kept in a residential setting forever in any case, since their ultimate size is overwhelming. Depending on how long you plan to keep it and live there, you could always do your lower pruning now, plant a replacement tree a little further away from the driveway and let it get a start growing, so that you won't be in a moonscape when this one gets to an excessive size or in case the canopy opens up too much for your taste. (Note that a new tree growing in this one's root zone will need careful watering).

    This one certainly has a number of nice years left, even if you prune the lower branches.
     
  10. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

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    LOL Michael F. although seriously I'm ripping mine out to put in a rose/dahlia garden :) My picea glauca was "trimmed" 4 feet off the ground when I bought the house presumably to let grass grow (argh!) as its on the south side of the lot and doesn't interfer with anthing. I had the "trimming" cleaned up (really bad job) and it now has beautiful form although I would prefer it un-trimmed. I do agree that if it's obstructing than you have to trim.

    Les
     
  11. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    For the moment at least I would drive around it as it looks like there is room and it will be seriously diminished visually by having a section of branches high enough for a car to pass beneath cut out of it. Mario's picture contrasted with your picture shows well why it is not an aesthetic improvement to limb up conical conifers (and broadleaf evergreens, like English hollies).

    Your tree looks like it is a slow-growing form that may even have been planted many years ago as a dwarf, shrubby cultivar. It is not going to overwhelm the property anytime soon.
     
  12. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    You do say the tree is impeding visibility, so you probably want to do some cutting. Actually, maybe you could trim the lower branches shorter instead of cutting them right off. If you stay in the part of the branch that still has green needles, the branches will sprout new growth, and you will be spared the bare trunk and spreading canopy of the limbing-up process. Why not at least try that before cutting off the branches entirely.
     
  13. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Looks like you actually could swing the drive around it. Would cost money to do this, of course. I'd consider it worthwhile myself as I like trees and the spruce is the most stunning element visible in these views. Some places are like that - an old tree happens to be their most remarkable feature. Other places the size or style of a building is what jumps out at you. But interesting architecture seems less rare than remarkable trees.
     
  14. jimfreschi

    jimfreschi Member

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    I am also considering trimming about 10 - 20 feet of the branches from the bottom of my very large spruce tree. My primary concern is the health of the tree.

    The reason I am considering this is two-fold: 1. I need to get more light in the area surrounding the tree so I can get a garden going, and 2. The tree completely hides the front of our house.

    I live in the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota. I have a small "city lot" front yard. The big spruce tree completely dominates the little front yard. There is nothing growing under the canopy of the spruce tree and that looks pretty bad in general.

    I really love the spruce tree and my philosophy up to this point has been to leave her alone. I only pruned some of the lower branches to allow passage on the side walk, which I really have to do to be a good neighbor.

    Up to this point, I did not mind that the tree hid the front of our house from the general public. My thinking was this allowed for more privacy and more protection from the harsh elements. However, a few people, some landscapers included, have said it would be more aesthetically pleasing to open up the bottom area of the tree.
    If growing a garden and passage on the sidewalk was not a concern, I think I prefer the full, natural look of a spruce tree that has branches going all the way down to the ground. One more note: I'm not sure if this is a BLUE spruce but I'm sure it is some type of spruce. It is VERY tall.

    Any input would be appreciated.

    Jim F.
     
  15. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Can you post a photo?
     
  16. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    A trunk is one extra feature of a tree.

    Leaving branches on conceals that feature.

    Removing a few limbs reveals more characteristics, and can make a tree more interesting from one point of view.
     
  17. jimfreschi

    jimfreschi Member

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    I will try to post a photo when I can. It was raining all day today so I could not capture a good image. But, yes, I will if I can: a) get a good shot and b) figure out how to put it on this forum. Thanks.
     
  18. jimfreschi

    jimfreschi Member

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    And, to M. D. Vaden, yes, it's all a matter of taste, opinion and point of view. I went and stood on the other side of the street and tried to imagine our big spruce without the lower branches. I must say I am conflicted. I certainly want to let more light in and around the area so I can get my garden growing. I'm just wondering how much more light the removal of these bottom branches is going to let in and if it's worth it. Sorry for "thinking out loud" on the forum. I hope to use the input I get on this forum to help me make a decision. I want to carefully consider the move since it sounds like, once one removes those branches, the tree will never be the same again.
     
  19. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Point to bear in mind . . .

    When a spruce loses its lower branches naturally in a forest, it is by shading from surrounding trees, and the branches slowly 'fade out' before dying and then slowly decay and drop off piecemeal.

    When the lower branches are pruned off, it gives a very different appearance, with dense, healthy branches suddenly stopping with a completely bare trunk below. Tends to look very artificial, and rather unattractive.
     
  20. mrtree

    mrtree Active Member

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    Removing lower limbs from a (Blue) Spruce will accelerate the decline of the tree as there will be greater tempertaure flucations in the soil beneath the tree, organic matter will be lost as needles are removed, and branch structure will suffer. Alteration of the soil moisture and temperature regimes, and the biochemistry and microbiology will all lead to problems.

    One other point to consider is that if you can see into the tree then you might be starting to remove all the little dead twigs "to clean the tree up". This will change branch balance and support.

    If you want to put a garden close enough that you are concerned about light then the root system of the spruce will be a bigger concern. Secondly I doubt a Blue Spruce made to look like a big mushroom will be more visually pleasing than the original plant. Perhaps you should consider removing the entire tree and consider a whole new landscape that will not be constrained by this tree.
     
  21. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I like some of the ideas posted in this thread but
    the lower branches can come off without harm
    coming to the rest of the tree. We see 75-100
    year old Pines and Incense Cedars not far from
    where I am that do look good with their wonderfully
    colorful old trunks showing sans the lower dead
    or dying branches.

    Sometimes we have to make a decision to trim
    the tree even when we would rather leave it like
    it is. I believe there is a enough of the tree that
    will remain to trim off the lower third of the tree
    to allow a car to pass underneath without too
    much trouble.

    In reference to Mario's photo I've seen Hoopsi
    trimmed to become a big mushroom shaped
    tree. At first I did not like the looks of it and
    then later saw how it could be beneficial in a
    landscape with annual flowers and daylilies
    growing underneath when before they did not
    have enough light to support them. Actually
    letting in more light and air movement into
    the interior of the Spruce can help it against
    spider mites and can lesson shoot tip invaders
    to come in afterwards in warm, dry and dusty,
    from wind blown dust, areas.

    It is the owners tree to do whatever he wants
    to it. Does not matter what we may prefer
    and that is leave it alone but do have someone
    like Mario come in and do the work. Raise the
    skirts to the desired height now knowing there
    may be some shaping required later and be
    done with it. Now is a good time to have a
    certified professional come in and do the
    work.

    I agree with Ron that this just may be a rather
    old dwarf, columnar form of Spruce. It is a
    shame to prune this tree but with some care
    and limited shaping afterwards I think a bona
    fide tree professional can come in and work
    their magic and make this tree look pretty
    good in a few years time. So that the taking
    off of the lower skirts now are not missed at
    all in a home landscape and in a few years
    time people may not know they were ever
    there.

    Jim
     

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